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3 accidents in 18 months lead to action at Pennock crossing

Arms will be installed at the railroad crossing on County Road 1 near Highway 12 in Pennock. The crossing has been the site of numerous accidents over the past year and a half. Officials are hoping the more than $71,000 project will make the crossing safer for pedestrians and motorists. Tribune photo by Gary Miller

PENNOCK -- In the past 18 months, there have been three car-train collisions at a railroad crossing in Pennock.

A resolution signed Tuesday by the Kandiyohi County Board of Commissioners to participate in financing to install crossing arms could prevent more accidents from happening there in the future.

"It's really going to be nice once they get them in," said Chuck Diederich. "I'm going to be happy as heck."

As a member of Pennock's rescue squad, fire department and City Council, Diederich is all too familiar with the dangerous crossing on County Road 1, just off U.S. Highway 12.

From the post office where he works as postmaster, Diederich has a clear view of the railroad crossing a half-block away and the vehicles that fly over it despite the warning lights that are there.

"I see people go through it with the red flashing lights," Diederich said. "The arms are going to be slowing it down much more."

So far the accidents at the crossing have resulted in only minor injuries, but in a "split second" they could've been "real bad," Diederich said. "It's getting to the point where it's not going to be minor anymore."

There are three railway crossings in the small town of Pennock, located just west of Willmar, but the one that crosses County Road 1 is a significant county transportation route and goes through the heart of town.

It is also the only major railroad crossing 50 miles east or west of Pennock along Highway 12 that does not have arms and a signal, said Diederich, who had made repeated requests to BNSF for the added safety features.

After a meeting last year with state, county and city elected officials and MnDOT, which determines where railroad signals and arms are warranted, the project was propelled to the forefront, said Diederich. He credits Rep. Al Juhnke, DFL-Willmar, and Sen. Joe Gimse, R-Willmar, for moving the project forward.

"For the safety aspect of County Road 1 and all the citizens and everyone who comes into Pennock, it's a real safety deal," he said.

BNSF will install the signal and arms. The project will be completed sometime this year.

Carolyn Lange

A reporter for more than 30 years, Carolyn Lange covers regional news with the West Central Tribune.

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