Railroad Crossing Ahead!



Milbank SD, September 17, 2015

As Garrison Keillor would say, “It was a busy week in Lake Wobegon” except that I don’t live in Lake Wobegon nor Minnesota and well, nothing seems to ever happen in South Dakota, especially good things.

Things do change, however.  In the last 7 days I was happily surprised to have my two biggest concerns solved.  The first I wrote about in my birding blog, and that was what would I ever do with this piano in my garage, Wife Silja had a garage sale and presto, I traded my piano with the Belgian neighbors for a box of cookies.  The ladies even lifted it on a trailer….tough ladies those Belgian Milkmaids.

The second issue was my number one fear in living in this town for 12 years–, there was no warning lights at the railroad crossing where the road to our ranch meets highway 12, a mile and a half south of us.  I live on a pretty busy county road and there are 8 or more trains by each day but nothing but a stop sign going south as a warning of a train.

For years I fretted that the each of my kids would meet an untimely death at the hands of a BNSF EMD diesel.  I was solaced in the thought that at least they wouldn’t suffer.  I even drove a UP EMD (well road in cab) around Superior WI during an Operation Lifesaver at 10mph as medical response team while the police gave out tickets for people running the warning lights and we even hit 2 cars.  Those intersections were gated and had lights but alas I didnt have anything like that.

Twice I caught myself following them up the road to make sure they cleared the intersection okay when I heard a train whistle shortly after they left for school or somewhere and to be honest…I didn’t care if they had members of the opposite sex over, even overnight, or when they were home,  BUT the absolute rule in our house pending near permanent car privileges taken away was not stopping both ways at that track even the way without a stop sign.  All this and the busiest crossing in the county without an active warning system and with parked trains that block views.

Last week, I was positively surprised to see BNSF crews at that crossing.  They put in a small shed and then were laying cable.  I was an old railroad spotter and knew what they were up to but it was so surreal I couldn’t believe it, money spent on my neighborhood? and then yesterday, it went live.  It was TOO good to be true especially in the week we got rid of the piano.

So what happened?  The South Dakota DOT administers crossings and believe it or not the state ONLY gets 2 Million to administer all the crossing per year.  In one estimate I saw in Florida, such a crossing cost just under $200,000 to install, so maybe the state can afford to install one a year plus repair the existing ones. There are a lot of crossings in a big state. Union Pacific wanted a billion dollars to build a 1000 foot tunnel under their mainline in Nebraska, a Billion with a B…wow.  No wonder I didn’t get my crossing until now.  A woman named Susan Tracy in Pierre administers the fund and I sent her a thank you note.   I don’t know if she did anything for the project but well I was thankful….someone had to know and now, so do you.

Sleeping better knowing my kids are a little safer


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