Conductors climb down from the train and stop any oncoming traffic and the train proceeds through the crossing before the conductor reboards the train.
Anders said the modernized signal system links adjacent crossings, resulting in multiple gate-system failures.
"Formerly, each crossing was independent of each other," Anders said. "But because of the design requirement of the new signal system, where crossings are in close proximity, they had to be tied together electronically. What this means now, is that sometimes four crossings will fail at the same time, causing traffic problems on local roads and delayed trains."
Nursick said the Connecticut Department of Transportation was concerned about the safety hazard posed by the gates dropping, and risk to motorists of driving through the intersections.
"We don't want the scenario where people have to take things into their own hands and are not obeying the flashing lights," Nursick said. "We can't have people getting used to the idea of not paying attention to traffic devices. That's a dangerous scenario. This is definitely a problem that needs to be fixed sooner rather than later."
Baker said local police stand by when the gates malfunction to ensure traffic moves safely, but he said his top concern is the risk of drivers who are stopped at the broken gates deciding to take their chances and cross the tracks just as an oncoming train arrives.
"My biggest concern is that people are waiting an abnormally long time (at the crossings) and don't see a train coming," Baker said. "That's when people have a tendency to drive around the gates and that's when we could have an accident. We have to get to the bottom of this and figure out what's going on."
Jim Cameron, the former chairman of the Connecticut Rail Commuter Council and founder of the independent advocacy Commuter Action Group, said the persistent problem was troubling especially with a new system that has just been activated.
Danbury Branch riders who participate in the Commuter Action Group's social media campaign have been venting about the stopped trains and extended trip times due to the malfunction.
"Everyone thought they were getting a brand-new system, so the problem with it is a legitimate question," Cameron said. "The signal system was supposed to improve service, but obviously isn't with this kind of snafu."