The ride that's ten times longer than it should be

A single railroad crossing into and out of town at Lasalle has been blocked far more than it's been opened.

LASALLE - Waiting for a train to cross the tracks can really get you off the rails.

Waiting for one single train car to get out of the way when it's not moving at all...that would probably make you want to blow your horn.

There are multiple train crossings in the town of LaSalle, which is just south of Greeley.

The main crossing off Highway 85 and 1st Avenue comes with the arms and flashing lights.

At County Road 52, a stop sign warns you about the two tracks coming into and leaving town.

The 5th Avenue dirt road crossing takes you from "downtown" LaSalle to the rural eastern part of the town. There are a couple dozen homes and a handful of businesses just on the other side of the crossing.

Jim Conlin lives about three blocks from the railroad crossing.

"This is our normal way of traveling to get to the doctor's office or to a grocery store. As you can see, the crossing is blocked here," said Conlin. "It's been blocked way more than it's ever been opened."

Union Pacific runs the railroad. It expands from two tracks to five tracks, which allows the railroad to switch cars or drop off cars for shipments and later use.

When Next visited the train crossing on Thursday, it was blocked by two trains. One of the two trains was blocking the crossing with five trains to spare.

"Sometimes, it's just one car blocking it," said Conlin.

You might be thinking this is not a big deal.

But an alternate route also crosses a railroad. The road takes you a few blocks south and pops you out at the 1st Avenue crossing.

Recently, a "No Trespassing" sign was put up, warning others that it is a private crossing.

"They no longer use this track here as a main line," Conlin said. "They use it for storing cars. Everybody comes up here and stops and sees the sign, and if there's no cars on the track, they cross it and use it when the other crossing is not available." 

The main detour requires a three mile, five-minute drive for what would normally be three blocks and less than thirty seconds. 

"We have a doctor's visit; we drive one, two, not quite three miles," said Conlin. "And we live within a couple of hundred yards of this crossing."

That might not be the worst part. 

While the train cars block the crossing, the warning lights flash and ding.

"If the wind is blowing in the direction to carry the sound to my home, we can hear that at home, yes," said Conlin.

We wanted to know why even one rail car has to block the crossing instead of moving it one car's length forward. A statement to Next from Union Pacific did not address that question.

"Our rail yard is experiencing congestion as we accommodate increased rail shipments for local businesses. While we do our best to keep the 5th street railroad crossing open, it can be blocked while assembling trains for local deliveries. Fifth Street crosses an active rail yard and we recommend County Road 52 as an alternate route. Union Pacific appreciates the community's patience as we work to accommodate the area's economic growth." 

Next first reached out to Union Pacific three weeks ago when we first tipped off to the crossing. Residents told us that Thursday was the first day the crossing was blocked since our calls.

"That's the longest I can recall in the last several years that this crossing's been open," said Conlin. "We're very fortunate to have finally somebody like Channel 9 take an interest in our problem here." 

© 2017 KUSA-TV


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