On September 26, 1999, about 5:08 p.m. (central daylight time), northbound National Railroad Passenger Corporation (Amtrak) train 304-26, which was en route from St. Louis, Missouri, to Chicago, Illinois, collided with an automobile, which was westbound on U.S. Route 136. The collision occurred where the Union Pacific Railroad's St. Louis Division main line and U.S. Route 136 cross near McLean, Illinois. The automobile driver and passenger were killed as a result of the collision. Amtrak train 304-26 did not derail, and no injuries to the train crewmembers or passengers were reported. Neither the flashing lights nor the gates for the grade crossing activated to warn the automobile driver of the approaching train. A Union Pacific Railroad signal maintainer had worked on the grade crossing warning devices earlier that day; he had finished his work and left the McLean grade crossing area about 4:30 p.m.
The National Transportation Safety Board determines that the probable cause of the accident was the failure of the signal maintainer to remove a jumper wire from the grade crossing control relay and, as required by the Union Pacific Railroad's written procedures, to verify the operational status of the grade crossing equipment after he had completed the maintenance work.
The Safety Board's investigation examined the following safety issues:
- Union Pacific Railroad's signal maintenance procedures,
- Union Pacific Railroad's postaccident site securement procedures for highway-rail grade crossing accidents, and
- Postaccident toxicological testing.
As a result of its investigation, the Safety Board makes safety recommendations to the Federal Railroad Administration, the Union Pacific Railroad, and the Brotherhood of Railroad Signalmen.
As a result of its investigation, the National Transportation Safety Board makes the following safety recommendations:
To the Federal Railroad Administration
Modify 49 Code of Federal Regulations 219.201(b) as necessary to ensure that the exemption from mandatory postaccident drug and alcohol testing for those involved in highway-rail grade crossing accidents does not apply to any railroad signal, maintenance, and other employees whose actions at or near a grade crossing involved in an accident may have contributed to the occurrence or severity of the accident. (R-01-17)
To the Union Pacific Railroad
Provide your signal maintenance personnel with dedicated jumper wire warning systems or other equipment that will automatically alert them if they attempt to leave a work site without retrieving all jumper wires they have used at that location. (R-01-18)
Establish procedures to immediately secure the signal case associated with any grade crossing accident until an appropriate, authorized Union Pacific Railroad or government official is on the scene to supervise entry to the signal case. (R-01-19)
To the Brotherhood of Railroad Signalmen
Inform your members of the circumstances of the September 26, 1999, grade crossing accident in McLean, Illinois, and emphasize the importance of conducting operational tests and accounting for all jumper wires after performing maintenance or repair tasks. (R-01-20)