We were certainly no fan of his during the last election, but we might just change our mind about Jerome Block if he keeps up the good work he has started. The newly elected Public Regulation Commission member has stepped forward to address a matter that no one else wanted to claim responsibility for.
Two people have been killed where the railroad tracks cross Rio Arriba Road near the city’s transfer station. Fred Stark of Denver was killed at the site last September and, last month, Las Vegas native Michael Esquibel died as he was crossing the tracks en route to the city’s transfer station. The train was reportedly northbound traveling 79 mph when it hit Esquibel’s pickup.
The second tragedy led State Police Capt. Toby Dolan to wonder aloud who has the authority to get mechanical crossing guards put up, and that got us to wondering the same thing. But multiple inquires turned up a lot of buck passing. Officials with the city, county, state Department of Transportation, Amtrak and Burlington Northern Santa Fe (owner of the tracks) each denied responsibility for creating a safer crossing.
Then along came Block who, interestingly, also said it’s not technically his responsibility, since this particular crossing is outside the PRC’s jurisdiction, but he decided to take it on anyway. “My role as commissioner is to uphold the best interests of my constituents,” he said, “and this is one of them.”
Block told an Optic reporter that he “took the bull by the horns” and set up a meeting to discuss the matter. Several government officials, along with some concerned citizens, attended the meeting, he said. He also reached out to state legislators representing the area and found that they were “very concerned also.” As a result, House legislation has been introduced to authorize a safety study; plus, diagnostic testing will be done at the crossing later this month, Block reported. He’s even arranged for a training program for first responders regarding railroad safety and is getting the trees cut back to increase visibility at the crossing.
We must say, we’re impressed. Of course, actual results are what matter most, so we won’t be satisfied until we see crossing guards and lights put up. Still, Block has shown that he can take initiative, and he’s stepped up to do something no one else seemed willing or able to do. And for that, we commend his actions.