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Caltrans celebrates rail safety month

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September is Amtrak California’s rail safety month. Board members, Caltrans employees, and Senator Carol Liu spoke Thursday at the California State Railroad Museum about California’s rail safety statistics and the future of rail safety.

California has the most railroad fatalities annually in the nation, and has the second most incidents of trespassing.

“Since 2008, 300 people have been killed in railroad accidents just in California,” said Caltrans Chief Deputy Director Richard Land. “Our belief is that tragic incidents like these can be stopped.”

September was dedicated rail safety month in 2009 when California passed resolution No. 10, a bill promoting education of railroad hazards intended to eliminate accidents in the future.

Senator Carol Liu, author of the resolution, said, “Our goal is to educate parents since many trains pass schools. We need to bring down the number of folks trying to beat the train.”

Caltrans demonstrated the necessity of educating the public on rail safety through several tragic stories.

One of these stories was told by Caltrans Maintanence Supervisor Frank Ornelaz II, the final speaker at the event. Ornelaz described an incident in which his father was anxiously rushing home from the dentist (he had been robbed the night before) and was fatally hit while trying to beat an oncoming train.

Operation Lifesaver State Coordinator Pete Aadland described another incident in which a train slammed into a semi-truck that was carrying gasoline and that, according to Aadland, “resulted in a fireball that could be seen for five miles.”

But due to the state’s resolution and Caltrans dedication to safety, fatal incident are on the decline.

Capitol Corridor Joint Powers Board Chair Bob Franklin said “Since 2009 rail accidents have declined steadily…We have also put up fencing along Oakland’s Jack London Square, and plan to do the same in other parts of the state.”

Franklin said it takes a train five minutes, or ½ mile, to stop after engaging the brakes.

“Collectively, we can all contribute to railroad safety,” said Ornelaz.

For more information, visit www.amtrak.com or http://www.dot.ca.gov.  

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