Construction Zone May Have Complicated Traffic Near Fatal Amtrak Collision

SAN LEANDRO (CBS SF) – Lane closures due a PG&E construction zone near an East Bay train crossing may have contributed to driver confusion in the horrific Tuesday collision between an Amtrak train and an SUV that killed an Oakland woman and her young daughter.

KPIX 5 learned Wednesday that PG&E had set up a construction zone in the area of Washington Avenue and Chapman Road in San Leandro, changing the traffic patterns many drivers were used to.

“The construction in the roadway with traffic lane closures condensing that traffic down, making it heavier than normal,” said San Leandro Police Lt. Robert McManus.

McManus said the proper signage was posted warning drivers about the construction zone and that two lanes would be merging into one.

“There was a very, very clear warning from a very, very safe distance that the traffic would be merging,” explained McManus.

Despite the signs, Oakland resident Vanessa Henriquez and her three-year-old daughter still ended up in harms way Tuesday.

Amtrak train 532 smacked into their Toyota RAV 4  at about 1:19 p.m., clipping the front of the vehicle with enough force to send it a quarter of a mile up the tracks.

Likelihood is that car was stopped, that car was likely trapped in traffic, said McManus. Never had a chance to even see that railway arm, unless you were looking in the rearview mirror to see it coming down behind that rearview mirror.”

For investigators, surveillance video and data from the Amtrak train will serve as a black box of sorts to hopefully reveal new details from the crash and ensure it doesn’t happen again.

“We won’t have those answers until sometime next week,” said McManus.

That computer data will show when the brakes were applied by the train operator and how fast it was going at the time of the crash.

The top train speed through the San Leandro corridor is typically 79 miles per hour.

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