The memory of 9-year-old Calvin Brandon and 6-year-old Hasan Bingham drew Linda Harris to the grade crossing where the youngsters died Wednesday night.
Harris knew the brothers from her work as a nutritionist at Spring Valley Elementary School.
“I always admired Calvin,” she said. “I talked to him the other day and he was excited because he’d made the honor roll. He also took great care of his brother who was in kindergarten.”
Linda calls this grade crossing dangerous. And so do many drivers who use it.
“There’s not enough room going up the incline by the tracks; you can only fit two or three vehicles,” motorist Jameia Melton said.
There are drivers who intentionally stop on the tracks, ignoring warning signs cautioning against the practice.
As she sat in her car waiting to cross the tracks, motorist Tamara Owens pointed out a dangerous situation.
“There’s a car on the tracks right now and that’s not good,” she said.
And that was not an isolated occurrence.
In about a 20-minute span, an NBC-17 news crew photographed four vehicles stopped on the tracks.
The approach of a locomotive triggers the warning bells and gates, but the time the tracks are clear depends on the speed of the approaching train.
Thursdays afternoon, NBC-17 timed the approach of a high speed Amtrak train, which arrived at the same time as the train that hit the SUV Wednesday night.
As the warning bells began to chime and the gates started to lower, NBC-17 photographed two motorists driving through the lowering gates.
By the time the barriers were fully down, it took only 12 seconds for a train traveling about 80 miles an hour to pass through the crossing; meaning anyone struck between those barriers would have very little time to react.
“It would be nice to see an overpass here,” area resident Shannon Talton said.
But she worries it could never happen.
“They’ve been talking about it for a long time, but I don,t see how they can do it because it,s not cost effective,” she said.
Officials estimate an overpass would cost about $13.5 million.
And even if the money becomes available for the project, officials say it will take several years beyond that to actually construct the overpass.