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Sitting at a railroad crossing for just a few minutes can test most any driver’s patience. Imagine waiting for hours for a train to move so you could get into or out of your neighborhood.
Union Pacific Railroad trains have been blocking access to homes on a Dodge County lake for hours, causing some to worry about what would happen in an emergency.
Incidents of trains blocking two county roads, preventing residents from getting into or out of Legge Lake, have occurred for several years, said Suzy Crabb, who has a home on the lake. The problem has escalated in the past week, Crabb said, with trains blocking both access roads to U.S. Highway 30 for four hours on Saturday, two to three hours on Sunday and more than six hours on Wednesday.
“My husband is a doctor, and one day last week he was two hours late because he couldn’t get out either of the access roads,” Crabb said. “We wonder what would happen if there were an emergency. One of our neighbors is elderly with a heart condition, and he’s very concerned.”
There’s no law against trains briefly blocking a crossing, but Nebraska Public Service Commission regulations require stopped trains to get moving within 10 minutes after a vehicle or pedestrian shows up. If a train can’t be moved down the track, the crew is supposed to separate enough cars to open the crossing.
Kristen South, a spokeswoman at U.P.’s Omaha headquarters, said a crew is working in the Legge Lake area, replacing concrete railroad ties. Weather-related problems also have contributed to congestion in the North Bend area, she said.
“Those issues have cleared, and the tie gang continues to work as quickly as possible,” South said. “We anticipate the gang to be in the area for another two weeks. We are doing everything possible to prevent extended blockages and leave at least one access point available to Legge Lake residents.”
Residents should call Union Pacific’s 24/7 Response Management Communications Center at 1-888-877-7267 in an emergency.
“Emergency protocols exist, and a train can be broken, if necessary,” she said.
Brad Schiermeyer, president of the Legge Lake Home Owners Association, said residents have complained to the railroad repeatedly without much result. He was among many residents who were unable to reach their homes Wednesday because a very long train blocked both country roads.
“Yesterday is the longest that I’ve ever had to wait,” said Schiermeyer, who has been at the lake for 30 years. “I came home to meet someone for work on my house and ended up turning around and going back to work in Fremont. Then I came home about 4 o’clock and the exact same train was still there until 6:15.”
Dodge County Attorney Oliver Glass said he was alerted to the access problems Thursday and contacted the Sheriff’s Office.
“I’m concerned about the Legge Lake residents and their ability to freely move about,” Glass said. “State law appears to show we could cite the railroad for a misdemeanor offense punishable by a $500 fine, but I am hoping that the situation can be resolved through open communication with the residents and the railroad.”
This article first appeared on www.omaha.com
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