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Editorial: Caltrain to spend $9m to make getting killed harder

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  • 10/27 Mountain View Voice
    Published Friday, October 27, 2006, by the Mountain View Voice Editorial Caltrain confronts suicides, bad judgment Last week s announcement that nearly $9
    Message 1 of 1 , Nov 2, 2006
      Published Friday, October 27, 2006, by the Mountain View Voice


      Caltrain confronts suicides, bad judgment

      Last week's announcement that nearly $9 million in precious
      transportation funds will be spent to improve safety on the Caltrain
      line is a good thing, although we have to say it is a shame that
      such a huge outlay of money is necessary simply to protect people
      from killing themselves.

      But that is what Caltrain will do with a $7.4 million grant from the
      San Mateo County Transportation Commission, which will be used to
      build new pedestrian and vehicle gates at 35 grade crossings on the
      route between San Francisco and San Jose. Caltrain itself will throw
      in another $1.5 million to rebuild pedestrian gates.

      The Caltrain officials who made the decision had little choice,
      after 13 people, including one from Mountain View, have died on the
      tracks so far this year. That is a huge toll, and in almost every
      case, those dying attempted to beat the train or should have known
      the dangers of crossing Caltrain tracks when the pedestrian or
      vehicle gates are down.

      The $9 million will be used to pay for new center dividers and
      mechanical arms that cover the whole street to block drivers from
      going around crossing gates. Also, new "four-quadrant" pedestrian
      gates would block sidewalks when trains are approaching.

      Over the years, Caltrain has continued to do its best to convince
      everyone to stay away from the tracks, which now carry fast "Baby
      Bullet" trains between San Jose and San Francisco. Running at nearly
      80 miles per hour, a Baby Bullet can be on top of someone -- who
      thought they might have time to scoot around the flashing lights and
      crossing arms -- in seconds. Obviously, for those who misjudge the
      trains, there is no second chance.

      That was true for the most recent person to be killed by a train
      along the Caltrain corridor, a man who ducked under the crossing
      gates in Redwood City earlier this month because he apparently
      figured he could beat the train going one way -- but failed to
      notice another train coming from the opposite direction.

      Six days before that, on Oct. 5, it was 69-year-old Consuelo Coronel
      of Mountain View who, according to the Caltrain conductor, attempted
      to cross at Rengstorff Avenue even though the mechanical arms,
      flashing lights and ringing bells were active.

      We hope Caltrain's $9 million effort will make a difference and help
      reduce the senseless fatalities that continue to occur up and down
      the Peninsula. We expect that no system will be good enough to stop
      individuals who are determined to thwart the barriers and place
      themselves in harm's way. But as for the accidental deaths, we must
      all remember to be vigilant: Keep away from the rails, and never
      cross the tracks when the crossing arms are down.
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