WES ‘close-call crackdown’ nets fines up to $6K

6-26-13-WES crossing crackdown-near miss
Law enforcement is cracking down at intersections like this one in Tigard, where they're seeing frequent near misses with the WES commuter train or crossing arms. (KOIN 6 News)

PORTLAND, Ore. (KOIN) — Police and TriMet workers say it has been “close call” after “close call” with pedestrians and vehicles trying to beat the Westside Express Service train.

As of Wednesday night, they’re cracking down after another near-crash in Tigard.

Around 5:30 p.m. Wednesday a driver snapped off the crossing gate while crossing in front of the train.

In another case, the rear camera of a train nearing Cook Park in Tigard caught two children dangerously close to the tracks. Despite a blaring horn, and the train’s speed of up to 60 mph, the two still seemed determined to beat the train.

Both of these cases ended up being “close calls.”

But in a third case, a dog was injured. Surveillance footage shows two unleashed dogs on the right side of the screen; authorities said their owner was trespassing at the time. One dog was hit. It was hurt, but survived.

When a conductor hits the brakes it still takes up to nine football fields for them to stop,” said Deputy Andrew Cookson with the Washington County Sheriff’s Office.

Sheriff’s officers are conducting patrols along the WES commuter train line Wednesday night. The line serves Beaverton, Tigard, Tualatin and Wilsonville, and runs every 30 minutes.

In Oregon the failure to stop at a railroad signal is at least a Class B traffic violation. Add that to near-hit dangers like these:

“The stuff that I’ve seen is near hit,” Cookson said, “where somebody was inattentive, crossing the tracks, ear buds in, on the phone, things of that nature.”

Cookson said he saw one couple narrowly escape being hit after they tried to beat the train last  year.

The statistics remain low for those hit and killed by a train. However, Cookson and others watching this stretch of track believe there are still too many close calls.

On Wednesday night alone officers issued at least three citations and eight warnings to either drivers, riders or pedestrians. If passersby won’t stop for the safety reasons, officers said the fines should be a deterrent: fines can range anywhere from $100 to $6,000.

— KOIN Reporter Jessica Morkert reported from Tigard, Ore.

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