After crash, doubts linger about light rail barrier

Whether it was down is unclear

man in critical condition


July 07, 2000|By Laura Barnhardt | Laura Barnhardt,SUN STAFF

It remained unclear yesterday whether the gate was down when a car driven by an 88-year-old man was slammed broadside by a Central Light Rail train Wednesday evening at a Ferndale crossing. Some neighbors say the gate is a chronic problem.

The driver, Vernon Baker of the 200 block of Poplar Ave. in Glen Burnie, was listed in critical condition last night at Maryland Shock Trauma Center.

"I saw the whole thing," said Brianna Bafford, 12. "The rails weren't down before or after. The train beeped, but then it was too late."

"We never heard the ding, ding, ding" of the gate, said Amber Benton, 12, who said she and a friend were looking out a window and saw the collision.

A Mass Transit Administration computer that is supposed to record when guard gates are lowered and raised failed to log the information for the crossing on Broadview Boulevard near Linden Avenue where the accident occurred, said MTA spokesman Frank Fulton.

The train operator's safety light indicated that the guard rails were down, and the train operator and a passenger on the southbound train said the safety gates were down, MTA officials said.

None of the 25 to 30 passengers on the train was injured, they said.

A crossing gate that was knocked out by the collision had been repaired by yesterday morning, and trains seemed to be moving through the neighborhood more slowly, residents said.

Fulton said the trains usually travel 30 mph to 35 mph.

Amber and Brianna said their mothers do not allow them to cross at the intersection, in part because the gates sometimes don't work.

"The lights don't always blink. The horns don't always beep. The guard rails don't always come down," said Jackie Zulauf, 56, a neighbor. She often reports problems to maintenance workers, she said.

Other neighbors said the gate sometimes gets stuck in the down position, forcing drivers to go around them to get across. Fulton said the gates drop only during a power failure, as a safety precaution.

Maintenance workers and train operators check the gates daily, Fulton said.

"We do have people who knock down the gate arms. But we haven't had any problems with the gates other than normal maintenance," Fulton said.

The MTA investigation should be complete within a day or two, he said.

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