McAlester News-Capital, McAlester, OK

State House

November 5, 2013

Government officials, local resident improve crossing

Ada — Turn off the television, what with its finger-pointing, do-nothing Congress; take a deep breath, and relax.

This is the story of a Pontotoc County citizen speaking to a county commissioner about a problem railroad crossing that almost got her and her daughter, as well as their three dogs, killed.

Pontotoc County commissioners in turn spoke to State Sen. Susan Paddack, and Paddack spoke to the railroad divisions of the Oklahoma Department of Transportation. Officials worked toward a solution to the problem.

Over a period of about 45 days, all the right connections were made.

Last summer, Ada resident Miranda Wood skidded to within inches of a railroad track on which a train was bearing down on her. The near-miss occurred on Simmons Road (CR 3540) and the experience set her on a mission.

She and her daughter, Starla, said they felt as if they were inside the train as it passed before them. Their dogs, Harley, Mollie and Dodger, riding inside the vehicle, also lived to fight another day.

Though safety improvements are still a ways off, all sides have agreed to terms for making improvements at that crossing.

The new crossing will feature flashing signals and other safety mechanisms to prevent drivers from inadvertently entering the crossing as a train is moving through.

 All the commissioners have to do is wait for a letter from ODOT (railroad division) and Burlington Northern officials. They will then add their names to the agreement when court convenes for regular session.

 Work is expected to begin on the crossing in about eight months.

 Paddack was reached on her phone Monday and told the commissioners were giving her all the credit.

 She laughed. “I am happy to work with my commissioners. They just needed someone to connect them to the right person.

 “Sometimes, when you run into a roadblock, you just need someone to help connect you,” she said. “I’ve noticed that when people see a real need, they’re anxious to help.”

 Commissioner Gary Starns praised her for her efforts.

 “She deserves a lot of credit for this,” he said. Commissioner Randy Floyd agree. “I think she’s got more pull than some of us do,” the commissioner said.

 Starns first contacted Paddack for help when efforts to reach railroad officials seemed to be going nowhere.

 Such improvements can take years, even decades, to unfold with state and federal revenues stretched to the limit by dwindling resources, county officials said.

 None of those pressures did a thing to make this particular railroad crossing any safer.

 Paddack had to talk to the right railroad officials about the “near death” experience of one of her constituents and of her desire to be of help.

 The officials with the railroad division, as well as officials from Burlington Northern, visited the dangerous crossing recently. It came within the parameters ODOT needed to qualify as a crossing that could be fixed.

 As with all politics, it took some negotiation. Floyd had to agree to ask the county to pay for 10 percent of the project. “I’m estimating that will be about $35-40,000,” he said.

The other 90 percent will be picked up by state and federal revenues.

 “It met their criteria, and we’re all happy for the safety of our citizens, so we won’t have a collision out there,” Paddack said.

 



 

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