Caltrain erects fencing to boost safety on tracks

On the heels of two fatal incidents on the tracks, Caltrain this week stepped up its installation of high-security fencing at trespasser hot spots in San Mateo County. Crews this week began adding 3,875 feet of heavy-duty metal fencing from the south end of the Broadway station to Oak Grove Avenue in Burlingame. Another 150 feet of fencing is planned for the south side of the San Bruno station.

Caltrain has seen five deaths this year — two in the last two weeks, spokesman Jonah Weinberg confirmed. On Thursday, a pedestrian, whose name has not been disclosed, was killed after stepping in front of a northbound train near Alma Street in Palo Alto. A week earlier and four miles away, 21-year-old Sunnyvale resident Maria Nieblas was killed after a train struck her car at the East Meadow Drive crossing.

Last year, 17 people perished on the tracks. While the majority of them were suicides, unsafe shortcuts along the tracks led other victims to their deaths, Weinberg said. “People have grown up around the railroad and in some cases generations of families have taken these shortcuts. Now it’s a bigger deal because we have 96 trains going through during an average weekday. People aren’t taking seriously the risks to themselves,” Weinberg said.

The $7 million, multiyear project was planned last year. Once completed, it will provide more than 50,000 feet of fencing between San Francisco and San Jose and close gaps on existing fencing.

Dr. Paula Clayton, medical director of the American Foundation for Suicide Prevention, applauded the project. “I think it’s really important that they’re doing this. I think it’s a great leap forward, not just a step,” she said. Studies have shown a decrease in suicides — particularly the impulsive kind more common in young males — when authorities restrict access to easy suicide spots, Clayton said.

tbarak@examiner.com

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