Stopped train creates frustration for drivers

OKLAHOMA CITY - Stopping for a train is one thing, but Darlene McFarland had never seen a train stop in front of her.

"So I thought, well, it won't be long," said McFarland, who encountered the train on her way home from work last week. "That was at about [3:50 p.m.]. And at about [4:20 p.m.] I thought, 'this is getting a little bit much.'"

Her frustration peaked though, when she saw an ambulance with flashing lights and was forced to change course.

"That's what concerned me the most, wondering if they had someone in the ambulance or if they had someone just to the other side of the railroad tracks that they needed to get to," she said. "I just hope whoever needed that ambulance or whoever was in that ambulance that the train did not cause any kind of delay in their care."

EMSA paramedics tell NewsChannel 4 any disruption to operations is minor. First responders face the challenges of trains every day.

"It does slow us down a little bit," said John Graham, EMSA's operations manager. "Not real convenient, but we manage around it for sure. If the train is not moving, we immediately find another route."

"Emergencies are unpredictable anyway," Graham said, so paramedics need to be well-versed in detours.

"Our EMTs and paramedics know the streets very, very well," Graham said. "We know the next block where maybe we can go under the tracks. If it's a certain time of day, we know trains come through at a certain time and the crew's very familiar with the area.

"We manage them, we go around, and we get there as quickly as we can."

A spokesman for BNSF Railway told NewsChannel 4 there are a few reasons a train may come to a halt on the track.

"Engineers usually stop the train in an emergency or if they spot something or someone on the tracks," he said. "Occasionally, the train may stop in front of a crossing because it is loading freight from a customer that is near that crossing."

The Oklahoma Corporation Commission's rules say a train may not block traffic for more than ten minutes unless there is an emergency or it is stopping to allow another train to pass.

Railroad companies can be penalized with fines if they violate the rules.

But when it comes to finding a way around delays at crossings, the BNSF Railway spokesman says the onus is on municipalities.

Railroad tracks were there first, he said, and the best way to avoid them is to construct costly overpasses or underpasses to divert traffic.