The Idaho Transportation Department will close a deadly railroad crossing where a 27-year-old Spokane man was killed Wednesday morning.
Kevin Lynn Peterson’s car was speared by a mile-long, three-locomotive freight train about 10:20 a.m. at the Beck Road crossing, near Idaho Highway 53. The Burlington Northern train carried the 1979 Chevrolet Impala more than a half-mile before stopping.
Another Spokane resident was behind Peterson at the crossing. He told Idaho State Police that Peterson pulled onto the tracks and stopped when the westbound train was about 1,000 feet away, said Cpl. Rick Yeend.
Some people have raised the question of suicide. Burlington Northern workers said witnesses saw Peterson’s car stopped and him watching several trains pass. Then Peterson supposedly pulled out in front of the freightliner, which was traveling from Chicago to Portland.
Investigators “have not determined whether it was an accident or suicide,” said Lt. Nile Shirley, of the Kootenai County Sheriff’s Department.
An average of 60 to 70 trains a day run along the main-line track, trainmaster Duane Wilkerson said. Top speed for freight trains is 60 mph.
Peterson is the fifth person killed in automobile-train accidents at this crossing in little more than a year. Last fall, the community around Hauser started lobbying for crossing gates and signals as a result of the accidents. The Idaho Transportation Department was planning to install those safeguards. Now, it has decided to close the crossing in the next few years, said Bill Dermody, an agency spokesman.
A frontage road will be constructed from Beck Road to the Prairie Avenue crossing, which has signals and gates, Dermody said.
Transportation officials have long warned that crossing guards don’t necessarily solve the problem. An estimated 20 to 40 percent of train-automobile accidents happen at intersections with such safeguards.
Idaho has some of the most dangerous railroad crossings in the nation, The Associated Press reported earlier this year. Kootenai County ranked seventh in Idaho for accidents where rails and roads intersect.
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