I walk around Downtown Opelika every day. At about the same time every day with amazing predictability, the train comes through town horns blaring travelling at what I consider to be an unreasonably high rate of speed in this particular area. At least once a week I witness someone cross the railroad tracks with the train about 50 yards away. While there is no rail on this crossing, there are lights and an audible signal.
To my knowledge, Opelika has not had an accident involving a train downtown. However, judging from the reckless behavior of crossing the tracks while a train is in motion, I am afraid this will change. If you are on the tracks when the train is coming, there is a 50/50 chance you will get hit by the train.
In case you have any doubts, it is against the law to cross the tracks while a train is approaching. Sec. 16-156 of the Code of Ordinances of the City of Opelika, Alabama, states:
“(a) Whenever any person driving a vehicle approaches a railroad grade crossing under any of the circumstances stated in this section, the driver of such vehicle shall stop within fifty (50) feet but not less than fifteen (15) feet from the nearest rail of such railroad, and shall not proceed until he can do so safely. The foregoing requirements shall apply when:
(1) A clearly visible electric or mechanical signal device gives warning of the immediate approach of a railroad train;
(2) A crossing gate is lowered or when a human flagman gives or continues to give a signal of the approach or passage of a railroad train;
(3) A railroad train approaching within approximately one thousand five hundred (1,500) feet of the highway crossing emits a signal audible from such distance and such railroad train, by reason of its speed or nearness to such crossing, is an immediate hazard;
(4) An approaching railroad train is plainly visible and is in hazardous proximity to such crossing.
(b) No person shall drive any vehicle through, around or under any crossing gate or barrier at a railroad crossing while such gate or barrier is closed or is being opened or closed.”
State law reference— Similar provisions, Code of Alabama, § 32-5A-150.
I urge you to please behave in a safe, responsible manner and be aware of the train signals. There are two locations in downtown to cross over the tracks if you are in a hurry and don’t want to wait. Don’t sacrifice your life (or those you travel with). The train may be an inconvenience, but losing your life would be tragic.