Kent railroad gates down for two hours after wire theft incident

Kent commuters had a tough time getting through downtown Tuesday morning when the Burlington Northern Santa Fe railroad gates were down for two hours because of a signal malfunction caused by wire theft.

The gates went down at 5:15 a.m. Tuesday and finally went back up at 7:15 a.m., according to an email from Chad Bieren, a city of Kent engineer.

BNSF officials reported to the city that thieves took approximately 15 feet of copper wire from the South 259th Street crossing at 5:15 a.m. that caused the malfunction.

Gates were down along major commuter routes of Willis Street, Smith Street and James Street.

The railroad's fail-safe systems require copper wiring. BNSF crews replaced the wire and buried it in flexible tubing to help protect it.

City and railroad officials ask that if people see vehicles near the tracks without BNSF or Union Pacific markings or people working around the tracks without marked vehicles nearby, call 911.

Bieren said the city will talk to BNSF officials to see if there is anything else that can be done to reduce wire theft and if the gates can return upright in less than two hours if a similar incident occurs again.

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