Posted by Martin Engel, a resident of the Menlo Park: Park Forest neighborhood, on Jul 8, 2007 at 10:38 am
There was a time, perhaps a generation ago, when train tracks were pretty much unfenced. Those trains that ran through urban spaces were located in industrial areas away from most of the population, or, away from middle-class population areas.
Caltrain, running down the spine of the Peninsula, has its corridor surrounded by ever increasing population densities. More and more, the tracks are in the way – an obstruction –- to urban civic life. People talk about putting the tracks below ground, or up on viaducts. Grade separations are considered a way of isolating the trains from vehicle traffic. All of which is to say that the forces of urbanization and increased population density are in conflict with the existing rail line. That condition will not, by itself, improve.
There is a very strong force of tradition in the railroad industry, and making changes is anathema. Fencing all of the corridor is not – yet – within rail bureaucracy thinking. “Let’s look at the problem areas and fence those” is probably what they said at one of their meetings. They want to electrify. They will then be obliged to fence that high voltage rail corridor entirely and make it as people-proof as possible. Well, why can’t they do that now? There is, on average, one death a month on the tracks. It may never become a zero-defect condition, but they certainly can reduce that mortality rate considerably. And, they certainly should try harder. Full railroad corridor fencing is a minimum requirement.