Hopkins police join railroad officials in preventing crashes at dangerous intersection

Hopkins, Minnesota, is facing problems with people stopping on or near train tracks, and now, police and railroad officials teamed up to implement a crackdown.

From the very first pass through Wednesday afternoon, Hopkins Police Sgt. Mike Glassberg spotted not one, but two drivers stopped illegally in the so-called "danger zone" of the intersection of Excelsior Boulevard and Milwaukee Street to the south, and Jackson Avenue to the north.

“It’s a complex intersection, but it's clearly posted where drivers are supposed to stop," Glassberg said.

In two years there have been two crashes at this intersection involving trains slamming into cars on the tracks.  Drivers stopping at the crosswalk instead of the solid white line before for the flashing rail arms is a constant battle.

“They've actually had to stop -thankfully, they are going slow - and walk out in front of the engine and get the motorists and say 'hey you need to move your car or it's going to get hit,'” Glassberg said.

“A train hitting a car at a crossing is the same weight ratio as a car running over a soda can,” said Canadian Pacific Police Special Agent Steven Scurek. “The train wins every time."

Gaylen Johnson has been with Twin Cities and Western Railroad Company for more than 30 years. In his career, he's hit 10 cars at other intersections. He believes the complex layout in Hopkins is partially to blame, along with drivers who are distracted.

“Sometimes people pull out in front of you, and you don't have a chance,” Johnson said.

Each driver during this crack down claimed to be confused about where to stop. As part of the joint effort officers and Operation Lifesaver gave out warnings instead of tickets.

Between four and eight trains pass through here every day with a speed limit of 25 mph.

“It's a constant problem; there are a lot  of near-misses,” Glassberg said. “We’ve been lucky.”