• Damage to light rail crossing arms has more than tripled since opening

    By: Mark Barber

    Updated:

    CHARLOTTE, N.C. - Channel 9 has discovered the number of drivers who are hitting the crossing arms on the light rail has more than tripled since the light rail extension opened.

    Charlotte Area Transportation System officials said in just the first six months of 2018, they had to repair crossing arms 383 times.

    [RELATED: How safe are Charlotte's light rail crossings?]

    "That's horrible," said driver Yvette Clark.

    Clark lives near UNCC, where a driver was recently caught on camera taking out a crossing arm.

    "It's very clear when you're not supposed to cross, so I don't understand where people's heads are," she said.

    [RELATED:Malfunction causes gates to close again along Blue Line Extension]

    Another driver on Orr Road was stopped in the wrong place, and the crossing arm came down on his SUV.

    When he pulled away, the arm broke off.

    "Oh, wow. I think people need to pay attention," said driver Michael Wilson.

    In 2017, CATS had to repair the crossing arms 119 times.

    CATS said it's happening more often because drivers are still adjusting to the new rail crossings that opened in March on the Blue Line Extension.

    In all the cases Channel 9 reviewed on Tuesday, the problems could've been avoided if the drivers stopped behind the stop line.

    Clark said, "It doesn't make sense. I believe we have too much time texting and talking and we become too distracted and don't pay attention to our surroundings."

    It takes $615 to repair longer crossing arms and about $250 to repair the shorter ones, so the problem is costing taxpayers.

    CATS doesn't have exact figures for how much it's spent on repairs in 2018, but based on its numbers, estimates easily run into hundreds of thousands of dollars.

    "We pay a lot already in taxes here in Mecklenburg County and in North Carolina, so I think that's a great burden on us," Clark said.

    If police catch you crashing into one of the arms, you can be fined up to $100.

    Some drivers have questioned whether CATS could offset the cost of repairs by increasing the fines, but that's something that would have to be decided by CMPD.

    CATS said it only knows of three cases so far this year where police have written up drivers for hitting the gates.

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