Man killed by Northstar commuter train
By BOB VON STERNBERG, Star Tribune
Last Update: September 1, 2010 - 10:32 AM
A railroad worker was killed in Anoka County early Wednesday morning when he was hit by a Northstar commuter train.
It was the first fatality -- and first accident -- to occur on the train line, according to Metro Transit spokesman Bob Gibbons.
The train, which makes 10 trips a day between downtown Minneapolis and Big Lake, has been operating since November.
According to Gibbons, the unidentified man, a 54-year-old employee of the BNSF Railway Co. stepped into the path of the southbound train where it crosses Egret Boulevard between the line's stations in Coon Rapids and Fridley about 6:40 a.m.
According to broadcast reports, the man was talking on a cell phone while crossing the tracks and was hit by the train travelling at about 80 mph.
The engineer needed more than a quarter-mile to stop the train, Gibbons said.
It was unclear why the worker was on the track, in the vicinity of a BNSF rail maintenance car, Gibbons said.
BNSF provides crew members and dispatching for the Northstar line, which Metro Transit manages, Gibbons said.
As many as 60 freight trains use the line daily, in addition to five outbound and five inbound Northstar runs, he said.
The line was shut down after the accident, but is expected to resume service during the afternoon.
Gibbons said between 150 and 200 passengers were transferred to buses after the accident to resume their trip into Minneapolis.
Buses were also dispatched to stations along the line after train service was suspended.
About a year ago, I noted on Bus vs. LRT Crash Externality
The Strib reported:
"In the five years of the Hiawatha light-rail line, five people have died in crashes, with none of the deaths on a train."
while in Feb 2009, the Strib reported:
"The accident was the third pedestrian fatality involving a bus in the past nine years. Gibbons said the last such incident was in October 2006. Before that, the last one was in January 2000."
(also someone has scrubbed Wikipedia's Hiawatha LRT article to remove the Deaths section, however it is still in the history).
There is a safety problem with high speed rail transport which is not grade separated. (There is also of course a safety problem with cars). This safety problem is worse than the safety issues with buses. This needs to be seriously considered as a cost when planning and designing alternative transit modes.