SANTA FE (KRQE) – Two bicyclist deaths involving the Rail Runner two months apart is forcing the train company to make some changes. Starting Tuesday, officials took major safety steps to keep passengers, pedestrians and bikers from getting killed.
Santa Fe’s Rail Runner has had several accidents this year.
In late April, a 60-year-old cyclist rode in front of the train as it crossed Zia Road in south Santa Fe. The train couldn’t stop in time.
It happened again two months later at the St. Michael’s Drive crossing when another biker was killed crossing the tracks at the wrong time.
Augusta Meyers with the Rail Runner said it was a wake-up call.
“We’ve never had a bicyclist fatality and then to get two right close together,” Meyers said.
The commuter train service is stepping up safety at five rail crossings in Santa Fe.
“Every time a train is going north or south through one of the crossings in Santa Fe, there will be a person – a flagger – with a flag on the track,” Meyers said.
They will be there to make sure bikers and drivers really know the train’s coming. One flagger was spotted keeping a biker back from the tracks Tuesday afternoon.
Meyers said 10 people will serve as Rail Runner crossing guards on a typical weekday. Service will also be a minute or two slower.
“Typically we go about 35. When you hit the Zia station, that’s going to be dropping down to 15 – so a little bit slower,” Meyers explained.
These new safety steps could be temporary.
State, Santa Fe and federal officials will spend the next two to three months studying what’s truly needed at those crossings.
There is no cost for the changes. The Rail Runner said it can handle crossing guard duties with existing staff.