What can be done about death on the tracks? While the number of fatalities from vehicle/train collisions at crossings has dropped significantly in recent decades, deaths involving trespassers on railroad tracks, including people who attempt to commit suicide by train, have risen.
Railroad safety advocates, industry representatives and other officials will meet in Chicago on Thursday, March 22, for a summit on ways to reduce trespass incidents and lower risks at grade crossings.
The session is being organized by the Illinois Commerce Commission, which oversees rail transportation in the state, and is intended to give commission members feedback on options to improve safety, according to Michael Stead, ICC’s rail program administrator.
“We hope that this will be a great opportunity to educate the commission on the issues,” Stead said.
The policy session will feature three panels intended to provide an overview of current railroad engineering education and enforcement strategies.
The first panel, entitled “The Challenge of Pedestrian Safety/Trespass Prevention,” will feature Norman Carlson, board chairman of Metra, Chicago’s commuter rail agency; Dr. Richard Jorgensen, DuPage County coroner; and Paul Piekarski, from the Brotherhood of Locomotive Engineers and Trainmen.
The second panel, “Pedestrian Safety at Highway-Rail Grade Crossings — Engineering Solutions and Personal Testimony,” will feature Adrian Guerrero, Union Pacific; Elliot Ramos, Illinois Department of Transportation; Dr. Lanny Wilson, chairman of the DuPage Rail Safety Council; and Derek Zook, a sergeant with the Naperville, Ill., Police Department.
The third panel, “Trespass Prevention — What Can We Do?” will feature Scott Gabree, manager of the Grade Crossing Safety and Trespass Prevention Program at the Volpe National Transportation Systems Center; Lou Jogmen, chief of the Highland Park, Ill., Police Department; and Chip Pew, state coordinator of Illinois Operation Lifesaver.
The summit will be held from 9 a.m. to 12:15 p.m. in the ICC main hearing room, 160 N. LaSalle, C-800 of the Bilandic Building. For interested downstate parties, the summit will be available via video conference at the ICC Springfield Office, 527 East Capitol Avenue.
— Richard Wronski
A version of this post first appeared on Trains magazine’s News Wire.