Santa Monica Lookout
|Santa Monica Will Add Fencing Around Expo Rail Tracks|
By Hector Gonzalez
December 18, 2015 -- Fencing will go up around the Expo Light Rail Line, City Council members have decided this week, several days after the Santa Monica's first train derailment last week at Colorado Avenue and 7th Street.
After initially objecting to fencing as visually obtrusive in 2011, Santa Monica City Council members this week approved the barriers in light of recent statistics showing large numbers of people continuing to trespass onto the light rail's guideway.
Council members on Tuesday approved installing fencing along Colorado Avenue between 15th Court and 7th Street, along the center of the guideway, between the two sets tracks. In addition, pedestrian sidewalk guardrails will go up along Colorado between 7th and 5th streets.
Officials started tracking violations on the rail line in September, shortly after Metropolitan Transit Authority officials began testing the trains in Santa Monica in August.
“During this testing phase, these staff and law enforcement agencies have recorded a large number of pedestrians, bicyclists, and motorists consistently trespassing in the Light Rail guideway, raising serious safety concerns,” said a staff report.
Officials recorded more than 2,788 instances of pedestrians on the guideway from September 24 through October 26, 503 instances of bicyclists on the tracks, and 153 skateboarders trespassing on the guideway, said staff.
Engineers testing the trains “have observed dangerous behavior on the part of pedestrians.”
Despite an “extensive” public outreach effort by Metro and the City to educate residents about the dangers, “there continues to be an abnormally high number of people improperly crossing the Colorado Avenue guideway,” said staff.
Officials continue to warn people it takes a train 200 feet to come to a complete stop. For whatever the reasons, the message so far has yet to sink in.
Rain on the tracks could also adversely affect emergency braking, as could the train operator's response time, said staff.
Just one week ago, the driver of an 18-wheel truck hauling diesel fuel made an illegal left at the Colorado-7th Street intersection into the path of a train being tested on the tracks, according to a preliminary investigation by the Santa Monica Police Department.
The train hit the side of the tanker and derailed. The truck's fuel tank ruptured, but only a small leak of fuel occurred “and it was cleaned up quickly by our Fire Department,” said SMFD spokeswoman Suzanne Post.
Neither the driver nor the train's four passengers were seriously injured.
Accidents involving trains have occurred on virtually all of Metro's rail lines, but the transit agency provided Santa Monica officials with an example of how fencing reduced problems on Metro's Gold Line Eastside Extension in Los Angeles.
In 2009, an average of 328 pedestrians trespassed onto the the rail line, which runs along First Street between Indiana and Lorena streets, during a 21-week period in which officials observed and recorded violations.
“After the fencing was installed, the number of instances in which pedestrians trespassed in the guideway dropped to an average 24 occurrences weekly over a seven week period, a reduction of 93 percent,” said staff.
Construction on the new fencing, the cost of which is being picked up by Metro, is expected to be completed by the time the Expo Light Rail begins picking up and delivering passengers to Santa Monica in spring 2016, staff said.
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