Barrington residents ask village to act faster on rail safety

  From left, Barrington Village President Karen Darch, Trustee Jason Lohmeyer and Trustee Todd Sholeen listen to residents speak about railroad safety during Monday’s village board meeting. Steve Zalusky/

Barrington parents and students urged village leaders Monday to act more quickly to address railroad crossing safety, in the wake of last month’s death of a 17-year-old struck by a train as she walked to school.

Members of the Barrington Student Safety Organization have been serving as volunteer crossing guards at village rail crossing since Barrington High School junior Marin Lacson was fatally struck by a train at the Hough Street crossing near Main Street on Jan. 25.

But on Monday some of its members asked the village to have permanent guards in place by March 4.

“Yesterday was one month since Marin has passed, and there has been no actual change in safety in the village except for the volunteers and the police presence in some of the locations now,” Roma Khan, the organization’s founder, told the village board.

Khan said the village has been slow to respond to her inquiries and called for more transparent communication. She also asked officials to work toward a pay increase for the crossing guards it contracts through Andy Frain to boost recruitment efforts.

Village President Karen Darch said officials are negotiating a contract amendment with Andy Frain that would call for crossing guards at Hough Street near Main Street, at the Union Pacific tracks at Cook and Main streets, at the Canadian National tracks at Main Street and at the Union Pacific tracks at Route 14 and Hillside Avenue.

The contract could be on the agenda for the March 18 village board meeting.

“Because everything isn't on our agenda doesn't mean work isn’t happening,” she said. “I apologize if the community has felt less than informed.”

Trustee Jason Lohmeyer said the village has addressed rail safety issues for years, but the timeline is often dictated by other agencies and organizations.

“These are not things that can be solved on a flip of a switch,” he said.

Khan questioned why only four crossings would have guards, noting that the Barrington Area Unit School District 220 website shows 13 points of impact at eight railroad crossings in school walking zones.

Several other parents said students remain traumatized by Marin’s death.

Megan Morris told the board her daughter is mourning the loss of her best friend and has “missed more school than there has been this month.”

“This still affects everyone today,” Barrington High School junior Sophia Malczynski said, adding that one of her friends becomes upset at the sight of trains. “It’s so hard to see her struggle. It upsets me that there has been nothing done to help ease this for her.”

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