Almanac

News - November 27, 2013

Report on bus-vs.-crossing-gate probe

by Sandy Brundage

A SamTrans bus entered a railroad crossing as lights were flashing, but before the gate lowered, according to an internal investigation of a July incident in Menlo Park that left a railroad crossing arm broken, an agency spokesperson said.

Bus 119, running route 296, had just left the Menlo Park Caltrain station carrying five passengers before breaking off the railroad crossing arm shortly before 9:30 a.m. on July 30, SamTrans spokeswoman Christine Dunn told the Almanac. Seconds later, southbound train 230 arrived and ran over the broken crossing arm. No one was injured.

A witness had reported hearing "a loud snapping sound" and seeing the bus hurtling across the tracks as the crossing arm flew through the air and landed on the tracks at Oak Grove Avenue.

Ms. Dunn said a video recording from a camera mounted on the bus showed that it did not crash through the crossing arm. The lights were flashing as the bus entered the crossing and the gate was up, but as the bus continued, the gate came down on the roof of the bus, toward the rear, and broke away on impact as it is designed to do, she said.

The driver, an employee of the transit agency for more than 10 years, continues to be employed by SamTrans, Ms. Dunn said. Disciplinary action, if any, would be a confidential personnel matter, the agency said.

California' vehicle code requires drivers to stop buses between 15 and 50 feet from a railroad crossing and listen for approaching trains before proceeding across the tracks. If gates are down, drivers must wait until the arms rise and warning bells stop ringing, according to SamTrans policy.

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