Friday, September 07, 2012

California’s Caltrain and Metrolink celebrate Rail Safety Month

Southern California's Caltrain Board adopted a proclamation for Railroad Safety Month. The agency addresses safety through a comprehensive, ongoing program that focuses on the "three E's of railroad safety" - education, enforcement and engineering.

As an active member of Operation Lifesaver, Caltrain offers a free education program for community organizations, schools and businesses on the peninsula highlighting safe practices to keep in mind when near the tracks.

The Transit Police Bureau, a dedicated unit of the San Mateo County Sheriff's Office, is responsible for policing Caltrain property, including stations, parking lots and the railroad right of way. Transit Police deputies have received Crisis Intervention Training, which educates deputies to recognize people who may be a threat to themselves or others near the railroad. Over the past decade, Transit Police staff have stopped dozens of individuals from placing themselves in harm's way by safely removing them from the tracks.

In addition, Caltrain has invested millions of dollars in engineering projects that improve safety on the railroad.

As part of a multi-year program to fence one side of its 50-mile right of way, Caltrain installed an additional 8,000 feet of fencing this year at a cost of $500,000.

The modernization of the Santa Clara station was completed in January. The multi-million dollar project included a new outside boarding platform and a pedestrian underpass, which improves safety for pedestrians at the station.

The $147 million San Bruno Grade Separation Project is at the half-way point. The project will elevate the Caltrain tracks and the station above three at-grade street crossings and also includes three pedestrian underpasses.

Also in observance of Rail Safety Month, Southern California's Metrolink is joining other railroad agencies across the state to encourage everyone to "Be Track Smart," with a series of events to emphasize the importance of safe behavior near railroad tracks.

In recent years, there have been multiple incidents where individuals from across the world have been struck and killed by trains and vehicles while wearing earphones, texting or talking on a cell phone. Metrolink's message to the community is "Stay Focused, Stay Alive!"

The safety campaign will incorporate an integrated communications plan including safety tips on Twitter, visits to schools near tracks, a safety information blitz at stations and targeted enforcements with the Los Angeles County Sheriff's Department Metrolink Bureau.

The "Stay Focused, Stay Alive!" message is part of a national outreach by Operation Lifesaver, Inc.

Deaths and injuries from crossing crashes and pedestrian-train incidents rose in the first four months of 2012 compared to the same period in 2011, according to the Federal Railroad Administration. Through the end of April, 2012, the FRA reports 635 people were either killed or injured at crossings or trespassing on rights of way, compared to 532 during the same time period in 2011.

"Based on news accounts of incidents, texting, headphones and other distractions appear to be part of the problem," Operation Lifesaver Inc. President Helen Sramek said.

September was designated Rail Safety Month by the 2009 passage of California Senate Concurrent Resolution 10, introduced by Senator Carol Liu, with the goal of decreasing rail-related accidents through the promotion of public safety awareness.

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