RCPD officers to ride rails watching for violations

By Tim Weideman

Accidents involving trains and other vehicles rarely end without injury or worse.

In an effort to prevent future accidents from occurring in Manhattan and Riley County, the Union Pacific Police and Riley County Police departments are teaming up from 8 a.m. to noon on Saturday to enforce railroad traffic laws at area crossings.

“Train accidents can be incredibly horrific,” RCPD Officer Matthew Droge said. “I would venture to guess they’re almost 100 percent preventable.”

Riley County hasn’t had a train accident in several years, Droge said. The department would like to keep it that way.

So officers who witness any violations may issue a citation or warning, he said.

“That’s going to be up to the officer’s discretion,” Droge said.

The educational program is part of Union Pacific’s “Operation UP Cares,” which railroad spokesperson Mark Davis said takes advantage of partnerships to promote its message.

“Part of the overall safety program is to educate people in railroad crossing safety,” Davis said. “Our other efforts are working with law enforcement just to enforce the laws for the driving public.”

On Saturday, Union Pacific officers aboard trains will be on the lookout for any violations.

“Typically, they’ll have a law enforcement officer on a train and then officers staged at various crossings,” Davis said. “If the officer on the train sees a motorist that is in violation of the railroad signals, they radio to the officer on the ground, who can issue them a citation.”

Droge said drivers can still expect to travel through Manhattan without long delays on Saturday.

“It’s only going to affect those railroad crossings for a short amount of time,” he said.

“We really don’t have a lot of railroad crossings on major streets.”

A map of railroad crossings in Manhattan and Riley County is available on the RCPD website.

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