Q & A with Bob Gibbons

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July 26, 2004 // UPDATED 2:43 pm - April 25, 2007
By: Sarah McKenzie
Sarah McKenzie

A semi-trailer truck carrying thousands of pounds of cherries crashed into a traffic signal pole near the Warehouse District LRT platform July 19, attracting scores of passersby, Minneapolis Police officers and Metro Transit officials. The truck driver cut the corner too close and grazed the LRT's eastbound track with the semi's front tires, according to officials at the scene.

The incident at the corner of South 5th Street & Hennepin Avenue disrupted the line's schedule for about two hours. Metro Transit's Bob Gibbons explained the accident and spoke about other LRT glitches with Skyway News after the crash.

What happened with the truck?

It appears that [the driver] tried to make the turn from Hennepin onto 5th and he cut it short, and as a result, the trailer part came in contact with the pole that holds both the traffic signals for the motorists and provides support for the power supply for light rail. The power is up above -- on a single line that is 750 volts of direct current right above the train. In order to hold that line up there at that height there is a series of poles all the way along the alignment. ... It just barely grazed it though, and the pole is not injured at all. There was no power loss to the light-rail line at all, and we were able to continue to operate trains throughout the whole incident.

Were some trains stopped during the accident?

Before we knew the extent of the problem, we did what we were trained to do. We established a bus bridge, where we deployed buses to the Franklin Avenue station in case trains were not able to operate. So what we did was we stopped a couple of northbound trains and we put those customers on a bus to bring them into Downtown while the rail control center decided it was safe to continue to operate trains.

Have there been any other incidents on the line?

We've had two instances where we haven't operated on time, and both of them took place two weeks ago. We had a train lose power near Highway 55 and 26th [Street & Hiawatha Avenue], and we had to bring a train that follows it in the schedule up behind it to hook up to it so we could keep the system moving. That took about 25 minutes to clear. In the second one, we had a train incorrectly sense it had lost its levelness. A train has to be level so it docks properly at a platform. When it doesn't feel that it's level, it shuts itself down. We had that happen just before it arrived at the Nicollet Mall station. It took 20 minutes to clear.

How does the LRT unveiling in Minneapolis compare to other cities?

Houston opened in January, and they have had 42 vehicle accidents since -- meaning cars turning in front of light-rail vehicles and being hit by light-rail vehicles. We've had zero -- knock on wood. I'm standing right next to a tree, so I'm pounding on it.