Child's death spurs leaders to evaluate safety of city's railroad crossings

March 12, 2012

Changes meant to improve pedestrian and driver safety at State Street railroad crossings likely will begin with simple, inexpensive measures, but city officials foresee more substantial efforts in the coming years.

"The city must turn the recent tragedy into an opportunity to improve the safety of this city by making this area as safe as possible," City Administrator James Archambo said. "We can never make any place 100 percent safe, but we intend to do all that we can to move as close as possible to that goal."

He was referring to the death of Joey Kramer, the Longfellow Middle School student who was crossing 68th and State streets when he was hit by a train Feb. 27.

Wauwatosa, state and railroad officials got talks about State Street crossing safety rolling March 7. The meeting was attended by Wisconsin Railroad Commissioner Jeff Plale and his lead investigator, representatives from the Federal Railroad Administration and Canadian Pacific Railroad, staff from State Sen. Leah Vukmir's office and Wauwatosa department heads.

The state Office of the Railroad Commissioner called the meeting to consider safety upgrades for pedestrians and vehicles along the State Street corridor, from Harwood Avenue to 63rd Street.

Education, signage, sidewalk reconstruction and installation of gates, rails and fences could encourage safer travel across railroad tracks throughout the Village, the officials said.

"Immediate steps may include broadcast of railroad safety videos on the city's cable access channel and our website, providing information on a highly effective volunteer education program - which can be provided to the school district - and signage improvements," Archambo said.

Longer-term capital improvements would require a more substantial investment, so options will be evaluated and brought forward to the appropriate boards and committees in the future.

"The proximity of increased pedestrian activity to an extremely busy rail line makes these considerations especially important in light of the recent tragedy, as well as past incidents involving motor vehicles along this corridor," he said.

Meanwhile, a fund has been established to help Joey's family with the funeral costs. Local businesses are collecting donations or readers can send money to The Joey Fund, c/o M&I Bank, 7635 W. Blue Mound Road, Milwaukee, WI 53213.


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