Drivers beware: Malfunctioning railroad crossing signal remains unfixed for weeks

When Darren Donaldson stopped at a railroad crossing with blinking lights and chiming bells on a recent afternoon, drivers behind him honked impatiently.

“I didn’t know what the hell was going on,” Donaldson, a roofer, told me near the crossing at Chicago and Central. “You’re supposed to stop when the lights are flashing. So that’s what I did.”

Cars in the opposite direction zipped across the railroad on Detroit’s west side. Soon enough, Donaldson realized no train was coming.

For weeks, the lights and bells have rarely turned off, neighbors said. So accustomed to the flashing lights, cars and trucks usually drive through the intersection without even braking, even though trains use the tracks.

“I hate to say it, but sooner or later someone is going to get hit,” Robert Winfrey, who works nearby, said. “It’s not going to be pretty.”

Residents said they’ve called the city about the crossing, but that responsibility falls on the Michigan Department of Transportation.

We are awaiting a call back from MDOT.

Last week, a motorcyclist was killed in Detroit when crossing through an intersection that often was green in all directions.


Steve Neavling

Steve Neavling lives and works in Detroit as an investigative journalist. His stories have uncovered corruption, led to arrests and reforms and prompted FBI investigations.