Metra investigating signal, gate problems in Mokena after near-miss caught on video

MOKENA, Ill. (WLS) -- Metra is investigating multiple close calls involving their trains and missed warnings about problems with signals and gates in Mokena.

The discovery came after a frightening incident in November, when a Metra train almost struck a police car. Video from the officer's dashcam captured the near-collision.

DASHCAM VIDEO: Police officer barely avoids being struck by Metra train in Mokena

From the Metra train's perspective, you can see the vehicle ahead of the cop car passing in front of the speeding locomotive, just barely avoiding being hit.

"Safety is our number one priority," said Jim Derwinski, Metra CEO/Executive Director. "These grade crossings are our number one priority. This was a very, very rare condition that occurred that day."

But on the morning of Nov. 9, an hour and 20 minutes before the near-miss with the cop car, there was another near-catastrophe at the 191st Street crossing.

"We went back, and we decided to look at it deeper, and when we found deeper things we wanted to be transparent about it," Derwinski said.

Metra said the crossing gates failed due to an electrical short in a rail insulator. But before the encounter with the police officer officials said at least two Rock Island Line engineers failed to report the issue, allowing one train after another to continue approaching at speeds of around 50 miles per hour.

In total at least four trains passed through the problem crossing, and it wasn't until that officer was nearly struck the problem was reported and safety measures were implemented. Video shows a conductor on the train after the one that almost struck the officer manually directing traffic.

"Our highest priority is to make sure that the entire railroad system, not just the gates, are operating properly," Derwinski said.

Three out of the four engineers on those trains did not report the gate problem, but they did report a signal issue about two miles before the crossing that was also the result of the same electrical short. Why they reported one problem but not the other is also being investigated by Metra.
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