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Local News

Metra reviews Nov. 9 near-accident in Mokena

Metra released a report in which it analyzed a near-accident from last Nov. 9 in Mokena in which a train nearly hit vehicles as they were crossing the railroad because the crossing gates failed to activate.

Dashboard video of the near miss was captured by a Mokena police vehicle that swerved to avoid the oncoming Metra train. The train was on the Rock Island Line.

In its report, Metra said it was aware of the incident as it happened, secured the crossing and fixed the problem that day.

After analyzing what happened, Metra proposed and adopted a new operating rule to improve safety on the line.

Metra took another look at the video after it was publicized late last month. The second review determined that train was not the first to experience a gate activation failure at the crossing that day.

Earlier that morning, the first six inbound trains passed through the area without incident. Then, a train got an unusual stop signal and its engineer, following the procedure then in place, asked the Metra dispatcher for permission to go past the stop signal.

The dispatcher notified a signal maintainer who then went to diagnose the problem with the track signal and start repairs. When the maintenance was underway, three more trains encountered the same problem and followed the same procedure as the initial train.

About 8:42 a.m., Train 506 went through the 191st Street crossing at 52 mph. The crossing gates failed to activate before the train reached the intersection. This was the incident captured by the Mokena police dashboard camera.

The train’s engineer stopped and reported the gate activation failure. The dispatcher put precautions in place to prevent trains from proceeding through the intersection without first stopping and having a conductor get off the train, walk to the crossing with a red flag and clear the train through the intersection.

The cause of both the track signal issue and the gate activation failure was the same intermittent short in the electrical circuit that controlled the track signal and gates. It was repaired by 3:40 p.m. that day. The gates and circuits went through “exhaustive testing” before the extra protections were lifted, according to the report.

Metra implemented a new procedure for when engineers are given permission to pass a stop signal, they must now proceed at a restricted speed of
20 mph or less until it reaches the next track signal indicating it can proceed at the maximum authorized speed.

In the report, Metra stressed that gate activation failures are rare but do happen, and asked for the public’s help in reporting it by calling 911.

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