Soglin: Train crossing malfunction ‘unacceptable’

Railroad gates go down, stall traffic during Monday, Tuesday morning commutes

Published On: Dec 24 2013 07:35:36 PM CST   Updated On: Dec 17 2013 10:30:20 AM CST
MADISON, Wis. -

Another train signal malfunction held up traffic near University of Wisconsin Hospital Tuesday, a day after another railroad crossing malfunctioned during rush hour.

Madison Mayor Paul Soglin called the problem "unacceptable" given issues with train crossings he thought were improving.

There was no train in sight as crossing gates went down Monday during the early morning hours. Lights began flashing between 6 a.m. and 6:30 a.m. on West Washington Avenue near Regent Street, and commuters were surprised to see gates going up and down repeatedly until getting stuck around 6:45 a.m., blocking rush hour traffic.

Another blockage occurred Tuesday morning when the crossing gates near Campus Drive and University Bay Drive stayed down for 30-45 minutes, according to UW police.

"This is a city with tens of thousands of people moving back and forth and this particular crossing provides accessibility to two of our major hospitals," Soglin said. "It just can't go on this way."

Soglin questioned the response time to the incident by Wisconsin & Southern Railroad. Drivers were diverted for more than an hour until police officers helped hoist the gate. Officials with the railroad blame a bad contact in the gate motor. Traffic resumed just after 8 a.m.

"When it takes that long to get the problem resolved I think that starts stretching their credibility," Soglin said.

Soglin met with railroad officials back in June after News 3 reported numerous issues with the crossings. Now he said he may have to go to the federal government for help.

"We don't run a city that way and they can't run a railroad that way," Soglin said. "If I were to give you some lame excuse for why it took a fire truck two hours to get there the excuse doesn't matter. It just does not take that long."

In a statement to News 3, a spokesman for Wisconsin & Southern said the delay could have been because of not having maintenance staff in the area or staff members getting stuck in traffic.

Soglin said he wants to get in touch with other cities experiencing similar issues to try to force the Federal Railroad Administration to act.