SPRINGFIELD, Mo. – Just before the pandemic, the nation’s railroads laid off tens of thousands of people to save money, cutting 30% of their workforces.

On top of that, the big carriers have been looking at cutting the remaining train crew numbers in half to only one person on the whole train.

There is even talk of automation and getting rid of everyone on board.

But now the railroads say they have a staffing shortage and longer trains help them move more cargo with the crews they do have.

For most, it’s just an inconvenience to wait longer. For some, it could be a matter of life or death.

Just like the cars at the crossings, frustrations are piling up.

“You get stuck and held for ten minutes or more. I have seen them wait as long as twenty minutes out here,” said Springfield Gymnastics & Aquatics owner Darrell Jackson.

Freight trains are getting longer, sometimes stretching up to two miles in length. Meaning motorists are stuck twice as long- waiting.

“It created quite a bit of a problem for parents bringing their kids to classes because every week they come and complain about we are late because the train held us up,” said Jackson.

It’s not just not folks like Darrell heading to work or school or shopping that are feeling the impact.

“It stresses us out. Sometimes those stuck are police, fire, or paramedics on the way to calls,” said Republic Fire Department Captain Tim King.

“And truly you don’t know the train is on the track until you get there. So that typically means diverting and going a longer route after you have already proceeded down one route and that’s not always possible. So, many of the calls have to cross the tracks,” said King.

Republic fire has had to start documenting the times it’s delayed by trains, and planning routes around the tracks.

It happens at least a couple of times a month and is becoming more frequent, minutes at a time when seconds count.

“Say, in terms of a house fire, it could be a single room that is on fire and if we wait ten minutes it could be through the roof and most of the house is gone. Modern construction fire burns extremely fast//and a medical call if it is a cardiac arrest, that is life or death, that is potentially a death sentence,” said Captain Tim King.

BNSF Railway- which operates the main lines in and out of Springfield- says combining shorter trains into longer ones boosts productivity.

BNSF- which posted a record 6 billion in revenues last year says it believes the benefit for us is that waiting for one long train is better than sitting behind two or more shorter ones.

“It’s little consolation for those just trying to get across town,” said Darrell Jackson, “Not a lot I can do about it. It just makes the wait even longer and they are pretty long trains, to begin with. But I understand their situation too.”

Frustration for most of us…a big problem for those trying to save a lie,” said Captain Tim King, “We know that it is making the situation worse. Every second longer that it takes us to get there, it is making the situation worse.”

The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration has a page on its website with information for EMS on how to deal with these crossing delays.