Weekend Fatalities Highlight Need For Train Track Safety Solutions


(KCBS) – Transportation officials are more rushed than ever to find solutions to ongoing safety issues on Bay Area railways. This urgency comes following three apparently unrelated deaths on the tracks Saturday.

Gary Carter, a 47-year-old Fremont resident, was struck and killed by Amtrak train number 727, a westbound Capitol Corridor train, around 10:20 a.m., said Danelle Hunter, an Amtrak spokeswoman.

Two other people died on the Caltrain tracks on the Peninsula Saturday within only hours of Carter’s death. At about 11:10 a.m., northbound train No. 801, a Baby Bullet express train, hit an unidentified person at the California Avenue Caltrain station in Palo Alto, spokeswoman Christine Dunn said. At 12:13 p.m., southbound train No. 428 struck and killed a person on the tracks just north of the Menlo Park station, Dunn said.

KCBS’ Mark Seelig Reports: Saturday’s deaths were the 15th and 16th this year for Caltrain, Dunn said.

It’s a problem that has long plagued the transit system, most notably when deaths on Caltrain tracks peaked at 20 in 1995. The issue is being studied by the San Jose-based Mineta Transportation Institute, at the behest of federal and state officials.

“We’re doing it in two phases, first to identify what the characteristics of the deaths are,” explained Institute executive director Rod Diridon. “Are they suicides or are they accidents? And if so, what are the characteristics of those accidents and suicides? We completed that study about 6 months ago and are now launching into the study to determine the ways of avoiding the problems.”

The easy solutions: isolating the tracks with fencing and grading.

“Unfortunately, the ways of avoiding the problem are very expensive. It’s really a matter of separating or isolating the corridors so people can’t get to them easily,” Diridon pointed out.

(© 2011 CBS Broadcasting Inc. All Rights Reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed.)

More from Mark Seelig
  • Replace CalTrain with BART

    If you are going to go through the trouble to grade-separate the tracks, then you might as well as replace CalTrain with BART service. An added benefit of that would be that it would be electrified and give round the bay BART service once the East Bay BART tracks connect up with San Jose in a few years.

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