Published Friday, November 30, 2001, in the Palo Alto Daily News
Woman with walker killed by Caltrain
By Tami Min
Daily News Staff Writer
While transportation boards debate plans to separate the street from
Caltrain tracks at four locations in Menlo Park, the fatality count
for this year on the Caltrain track went up to 13 last night.
An elderly woman using a walker was hit by southbound train No. 70 at
5:30 p.m. at Encinal Avenue in Menlo Park.
It was not immediately clear if it was an accident or a suicide
Menlo Park resident Leila Whitehead, 20, was waiting to cross from
east of the tracks in her car when she saw the elderly woman standing
on the other side.
"She was on the marker. She was trying to walk across," Whitehead
said. "Her hair blew back, the train went by ... (and) there was a
look on her face."
Whitehead said she didn't know if it was an expression
of "exhilaration or fright." Then the train stopped almost
immediately after it hit the woman, she said. A purple slipper and
the woman's walker fell next to the tracks.
The southbound trains were stopped for more than an hour, Caltrain
spokeswoman Jayme Maltbie said. Last night, officials expected about
one-hour delays throughout the entire system.
Menlo Park police said, according to witnesses, the crossing arms
were down and warning lights and bells were flashing and sounding. An
investigation is underway and the San Mateo County Coroner's office
is expected to release the identity of the woman today.
Menlo Park City Council member Steve Schmidt, who has been an
advocate for grade separations along the Caltrain, said he's "just
horrified that people are injured and killed by the train."
Schmidt says four separation projects have been proposed in Menlo
Park and one of them is planned for Encinal Avenue.
The other three have been proposed for Ravenswood Avenue, Oak Grove
Avenue and Glenwood Avenue. A fifth separation designed for
bicyclists and pedestrians has been planned at Willow Road.
"They're expensive, but you can't put a dollar value on one person's
life," Schmidt said.
Schmidt, who serves on the boards of directors of SamTrans and the
Peninsula Corridor Joint Powers of Caltrain, said a single such
project costs about $30 million.
"Countywide, the will is there to do this. There's no doubt in my
mind," he said.