WELD COUNTY, Colo. — An Amtrak train derailed Monday night after it struck a truck that was on the railroad tracks in Weld County.
None of the 69 passengers on the train were seriously injured, but one was taken to the hospital with minor injuries. The driver of the truck, which was hauling milk, was walking around the scene, according to Colorado State Patrol (CSP).
An engineer on the train suffered "serious, possibly life-threatening injuries." CSP did not have an update on their condition as of Wednesday.
An investigation into the crash is ongoing.
Carl Smith, the state legislative director for SMART Transportation, said there are no railroad lights or gates at the crossing near Keenesburg where the Amtrak train derailed on Monday.
“That makes us nervous, especially at a farm crossing," Smith said. "That tank truck could easily have gasoline in it. It could have crude oil in it. It could have natural gas... As that crew is approaching this unknown tanker, they don't know that it's milk until they're already practically on top of it. That fear, that scare, I can't imagine."
The Federal Railroad Administration (FRA) reports Weld County has the highest number of highway-rail incidents compared to the rest of Colorado counties. Data shows that since 2017, there have been 46 incidents in Weld County. Denver County is next with 35 incidents.
“Weld County has a lot of crossings," Smith said. “Between Union Pacific and BNSF, there are a significant amount of rail crossings in that area.”
Colorado lawmakers plan to introduce bill regarding railway safety next session
A 2018 report from the FRA shows the same crossing at County Road 63 in Weld County saw another train crash into a truck trailer that was moving over the crossing. No one was killed or injured. The train was recorded going 60 miles per hour.
Another FRA report from 1984 shows another crash at the same crossing. A train collided with a truck trailer that was stopped on the crossing. No one was killed or injured. The train was estimated to be going 50 miles per hour.
“The first one, I am certain, one of the reports was this crossing," Smith said about the report from 2018. "The other one was from 1984, so a little bit harder to to narrow down.”
Denver7 was directed to the FRA reports by attorney Bill Jungbauer, who specializes in railroad litigation.
“The fact that Burlington Northern [BNSF] knew that there's two prior truck train collisions at this crossing, if this was the one we're talking about, I would argue they should have done something about it because it's not safe," Jungbauer said.
Both Jungbauer and Smith believe there should have been lights and gates installed at the crossing in Weld County. That crossing only has a railroad crossing sign and stop sign currently.
“Generally, the federal government will pay as much as 90% of the cost of putting active protection, like lights and gates, and states will pay as much as 10%. I mean, if they can get it for dang near free, why wouldn't they do it?” Jungbauer said.
Denver7 reached out to BNSF, which said the decision to install active warning devices at a road crossing is for the local or state road authority. BNSF is responsible for the cost of repairing the rail line and any other infrastructure when an incident occurs.
The Public Utilities Commission (PUC) regulates rail safety in Colorado. Denver7 reached out and received the following statement:
Cities and counties can independently work with railroads and the PUC to signalize or upgrade a rail crossing. Unfortunately, the costs of these projects can be high (starting at roughly $300k for a single track crossing and increasing with the number of tracks, wayside signal locations, etc.), which can be a particular barrier for small, rural communities. The Federal Highway Administration provides annual funding to states to pay for safety improvements at rail crossings. This is known as the Section 130 list. In order to be considered a Section 130 eligible project, certain risk criteria needs to be met. That Section 130 list is managed by CDOT.
A spokesperson from Amtrak said there is video from the train that will be used during the investigation. They continued to say local authorities would recommend charges or cite the trucker.