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When the RR gates are stuck down

American Government Special Collections Reference Desk

McHenry County, Illinois

When the RR gates are stuck down

Gus Philpott
Woodstock Advocate
December 17, 2011

Railroad gates in WoodstockWestbound Church St.

At mid-morning the gates for the Metra grade crossings in Woodstock were stuck down. As I waited on northbound Madison at Calhoun, there seemed to be a long delay and then, finally, a long outbound Metra train passed - slowly - and headed into the Woodstock station. And still the gates stayed down. When no inbound (toward Chicago) train passed, I called Woodstock PD to report the gate problem, and I learned I was "about the 100th" caller.

So I turned around (one of the benefits of leaving some distance between my car and the rear bumper of the car ahead) and drove through the South Street tunnel. After stopping in a business on Madison, I noticed that the gates were still down and snapped this photo after parking in the Challenger parking lot.

I saw only one driver cross the tracks by the Depot by going around the gates (a $250 chance), and I wasn't close enough to get a photo.

Over the past 15 years I've wondered whether the Woodstock Police Department has an Action Plan for stuck crossing gates. I wouldn't want the Risk Manager for the City to have a heart attack, if a cop assisted traffic by directing drivers around a stuck gate, but it certainly could be done safely, after the proper training. Gates get stuck down often enough that there ought to be a contingency plan, especially by the Depot, where Church Street and Washington St. are State Highway 120.

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