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EDITORIAL: Passing the buck can be fatal

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By The Staff

One thing is absolutely undeniable about the Rio Arriba Road railroad crossing just north of town: Two people have been killed trying to cross there.

Now, some are calling for the installation of warning lights and other safety equipment at the site, rather than just signage.

But so far, they’re not getting any response.

To be sure, all agencies contacted agree on one thing: It’s someone else’s job to improve the crossing.

In short, here’s the bureaucratic shuffle we encountered when trying to figure out whose responsibility it would be to set up warning lights at the crossing:

• Burlington Northern Santa Fe, which owns the tracks, contends funding for equipment at the crossing would have to come from state and federal sources. Burlington Northern would have to maintain the equipment once it’s installed, a company spokesman says.

• The state Department of Transportation says it doesn’t believe it has any responsibility to install safety devices, noting that it’s the property of Burlington Northern. The agency said it’s the job of the transfer station owner to put up warning lights. The road leads to the solid waste transfer station, which the city owns.

• Las Vegas city officials say it’s outside the city limits and not their responsibility. They are asking Burlington Northern to take care of it.

• For its part, the county says Rio Arriba is not on the county road log. County Manager Les Montoya said there are roads in the county that are public rights-of-way, but that doesn’t mean they are county roads.

“It can be a public right-of-way with no government ownership. I don’t think it is maintained by anybody,” Montoya said.

In other words, no one is claiming any responsibility. None of the explanations by the officials are good enough for the community.

We don’t want to see this game of passing the buck continue.  It sure would be nice if some entity were to step forward to do the right thing. Lacking that, maybe some one in an official capacity could move the issue forward, by calling upon everyone — the city, county, state and railroad — to sit down and collectively figure out a way to put up crossing guards and lights, and how to pay for it. After all, we don’t need another fatality to drive the point home.