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Rail News: Passenger Rail

Caltrain plans safety blitz


Last year, 17 people died on Peninsula Corridor Joint Powers Board (Caltrain) tracks; as of July 5, eight had died already this year.

In response, southern California’s Caltrain plans the week of July 9 to conduct an aggressive four-day, zero-tolerance safety blitz — including combined local police and sheriff’s departments, and the use of an Amtrak helicopter and bike patrols, in addition to Amtrak Police Department personnel contracted with Caltrain.

"Our goal is that someday, the idea of crossing tracks illegally and loitering along the railroad will be as taboo in our communities as a casual stroll across the Bayshore Freeway," said Ron Frazier, chief of the Amtrak Police Department based in Philadelphia, in a prepared statement.

Frazier plans to deploy the agency’s Bell 206B III Jet Ranger helicopter and a dozen out-of-state Amtrak officers to supplement local forces. In all, about 30 officers would be issuing citations instead of warnings, or ejecting trespassers and other violators from rail property.

Two Amtrak officers have been assigned to Caltrain’s newly inaugurated bike patrol unit, riding Police Package Trek bicycles complete with lights and sirens. The bike patrols will remain a Caltrain enforcement resource after the blitz’s completion; the helicopter can be brought back later, if needed.

Meanwhile, Amtrak also is beginning a juvenile diversion program. Youths caught trespassing or committing other violations would be given the option of attending rail safety education classes with their parents instead of being referred to the juvenile court system.

Caltrain plans to host a kickoff 11 a.m. July 10 at Bay Meadows in San Mateo, Calif., to begin the daily noon-to-8 p.m. blitz. From there, the forces would target San Francisco, South San Francisco, Burlingame, Redwood City, Menlo Park, Mountain View, Sunnyvale and San Jose.

Contact Progressive Railroading editorial staff.

More News from 7/6/2001