NMDOT looks at new pedestrian, train safety barriers

SANTA FE (KRQE) - After two deaths in two months on Rail Runner train tracks, the New Mexico Department of Transportation says it’s now looking at new ways to keep people safer around trains.

Cutting right through the heart of Santa Fe, the Rail Runner’s path sees a lot of traffic. But it’s not just cars, it’s people and bicyclists too, groups who have recently been in a tragic spotlight.

“I mean two people being hit by the train and it’s just a lesson for everybody,” said Melissa Dosher.

A spokeswoman for NMDOT, Dosher is commenting on two bicyclists who’ve been hit by the Rail Runner since late April.

The first happened at a sidewalk rail crossing near St. Francis and Zia Road, killing 60-year-old Susan LeBeau of Santa Fe.

The second happened Monday at another crossing near St. Michaels and Calle Lorca, killing an unidentified man.

In both crashes, Santa Fe police say the two cyclists were crossing where they were supposed to, on the sidewalk. Now, that has NMDOT’s attention.

“They’re looking into whether it is a problem,” said Dosher.

Dosher says DOT officials are now looking into whether or not the department and other agencies can do more to make railroad crossings safer. She says the discussion comes as some community members have asked for physical barriers to be put in that would block pedestrians from crossing the tracks when trains roll through.

“You know the crossing arms for pedestrians and bicyclists along the Rail Runner tracks,” said Dosher.

Right now, there are only barriers that come down to block cars. People on the sidewalk have no warning directly ahead of them except for a few signs and the sirens that sound in the area.

But NMDOT says it’s still talking about whether or not there is actually a problem.

“If it is a problem where those problem areas are and if those are pinpointed what kind of technology we could use to avert any type of disaster,” said Dosher.

There’s no timelines on any decisions either. For now, NMDOT says the deaths should be a reminder to people that they need to be more aware around trains.

“When you’re coming up on a railroad track, look both ways, make sure a train isn’t coming,” said Dosher.

While NMDOT says it’s leading the discussion about changes to the railroad crossings, it says most improvements would likely have to be paid for by the City of Santa Fe or Rio Metro, the agency that runs the Rail Runner. The city of Santa Fe owns the pathways that cross much of the Rail Runner tracks.

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