Wednesday morning's pedestrian verse train accident in Marshfield is the second fatal accident this week in Wood County and one of five other accidents in the past twelve months in the city. Wisconsin State Railroad Commissioner, Jeff Plale said more needs to be done to prevent these tragedies.
"When you just look at the number of incidences that happen in Marshfield, it makes you just stand up and say what the heck," he exclaimed.
The railroad has been part of Marshfield's history for just under 150 years. Right now, Plale said Wisconsin, specifically Central Wisconsin, is at the epicenter of the entire national industry.
"The volume of trains coming through through town is more in recent years than it has been in previous years, as a result of changes in industry and the need for the railroad," said Marshfield Police Chief Rick Gramza.
Its main line running through the downtown along East Veterans Parkway is what Plale calls a "hot track," with 35-40 trains running through daily. Now, five accidents in 12 months has him scratching his head.
"We have to figure something out because there's no reason on Earth that Marshfield should be this center of all these people getting hit by trains," he said.
Three of the five accidents involved vehicles where they were either parked or stopped on the tracks, or drove too quickly and ran into the train. The fourth involved a deadly accident with a pedestrian.
"In that situation he was attempting to cross the tracks in a fashion when the gates were down and the lights were indicating that a train was coming," said Gramza. "He slipped on the ice, was not able to get back up and was struck by the train."
Then, there of course is Wednesday's fatality. Gramza said they were all preventable.
"The public needs to respect the trains," he said. "They're not able to stop as fast as a vehicle can stop. They're line of sight is not necessarily as good as maybe a vehicle's."
"Always assume that a train is coming. Don't play games with the train. You're going to lose," warned Plale.
The city recently conducted a study to see how people would handle a crossing closure. The state plans to use those results, look into the crashes, and work with the Federal Railroad Administration to find a solution.
"My mission is to make every railroad crossing in the state as safe as it possibly can be," Plale said.
Gramza said they have been upping their enforcement around the train tracks for both vehicles and pedestrians, but in order to stay safe and avoid a citation, he advises to not trespass on the tracks, do not try to out-run a train, follow all of the warning signs provided at crossings, and most of all, use common sense.
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