Watch for trains

By SARAH SUTSCHEK

 

 

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Lauren M. Anderson - landerson@nwherald.com Commuters cross the Cary Metra train tracks legally on Wednesday. The Cary Police Department was patrolling the station as part of Illinois Operation Lifesaver ready to write tickets to those who crossed the tracks illegally. The department received about $9,100 in grant money to go towards the effort.

 

CARY – Deputy Chief Geoff Cooker of the Cary Police Department once saw a train clip the back of a man’s trench coat as he ran to make it across the tracks.

“I’d see people going across with the train barreling through,” he said.

The Cary Police Department has received about $9,100 from a grant through Illinois Operation Lifesaver, part of the Illinois Commerce Commission’s Rail Safety Section.

Earlier this month, officers visited the village’s train station during the early morning hours to educate riders about the hazards at grade crossings by handing out brochures and coffee mugs to get the message across.

About two weeks later, on Wednesday, they were back to enforce the law.

Once the bells and lights start, even if the arms aren’t down, people are not allowed to enter the grade crossing. Even emergency vehicles are not exempt, Cooker said.

The first offense is punishable by a $250 fine and 25 hours of community service; for the second offense, it’s a $500 fine and 50 hours of community service, Cooker said.

“I’d like to come out here and have no violations at any time,” he said. “I don’t think that’s ever going to happen, but that’s our goal.”

The officers at the train station Wednesday didn’t issue any citations, although at least one man was warned after he cut it close.

“We’ll still get people who will do it when you’re standing right there,” Cooker said.

The officers will be doing the same thing quarterly, he said.

“A lot of people think we do it for the revenue, but we spend more money on the overtime than we make,” he said.

According to the ICC, about 80 people die on and around railroad tracks each year in Illinois.

Cary resident Tom Temple has been riding Metra for several years. He said he supported the education and enforcement effort.

“It’s a good idea,” Temple said. “There’s two, three, four people it seems like each year who get killed on the system.”

Greg Less, who also is from Cary, approached the crossing as the bells started sounding and lights started flashing for a Chicago inbound train.

Without seeing the officers standing nearby and despite wanting to catch that train, he stopped.

There would be another one in about 10 minutes, and it wasn’t worth it, he said.

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