March 14, 2018
Over the weekend (March 11 and 12, 2018) the City of Lakewood learned of train signal malfunctions that occurred at the Berkeley Avenue and Thorne Lane intersections in its Tillicum neighborhood.
Residents posting to social media complained of the signal arms coming down and staying down both Saturday and Sunday around the same time – late afternoon into early evening. Understandably they reached out to the city for answers and to fix the problem.
The city does not own or operate the railroad crossing arms or the traffic signals in Tillicum. Instead the traffic signals are operated by WSDOT and the rail crossings are operated by Sound Transit. As such, residents were directed by the city to call 911 to report the problem so that the proper authorities could be dispatched to respond.
City officials reached out to Sound Transit, which owns the railroad tracks, and WSDOT Rail Monday to find out what happened.
Here’s what we were told:
The WSDOT Olympic Region on-call technician was notified by the WSDOT Traffic Management Center Saturday afternoon at approximately 4:30 p.m. that there were problems with the signals and crossings in the Tillicum neighborhood of Lakewood. The Traffic Management Center also notified Burlington Northern-Santa Fe of the problem.
According to WSDOT, the signal technician was called off before he could respond to the site because it was a railroad issue, not an intersection traffic signal issue. BNSF is said to have sent a crew to respond and remedy the problem Saturday.
BNSF crews were also dispatched Sunday for similar complaints of the signal crossings coming down and not going back up.
So far the city does not have information on how long it took BNSF crews to arrive and/or fix the issue. The city also has not been told what caused the malfunction and whether it has been fixed permanently.
We sent an email to Sound Transit Monday morning requesting answers to a series of questions around the signal malfunction, including asking who will step up to take responsibility for ensuring the safety of our community.
The city learned over the weekend that people were told to lift the signal arms to cross the tracks, something that 911 dispatch reports show people were in fact doing.
The city is alarmed that this is what residents were told to do, and cannot emphasize enough the importance of obeying all crossing signals and signs – even if it appears they are stuck in the down position and malfunctioning.
Should a railroad crossing signal malfunction occur again residents can call 911 or the South Sound 911 non-emergency number: (253) 798-4721 to report the problem.
We share our residents’ concerns and frustrations over what occurred this weekend and will continue to seek answers to ensure our neighborhoods are safe as we prepare for high-speed trains to once again come through our community.
The city uses its social media to connect with residents in real time and encourages people to follow Sound Transit and WSDOT as well for information.