Ever tried crossing the railroad tracks near the Amtrak station to get to the other side to see friends or to get a haircut? Well, times have changed and so has this crossing.
Since September 2011, Union Pacific (UP) has constructed a 3,800 foot long fence stretching three miles east starting from Richards Boulevard. Due to UP policy which upholds that a fence be put up on tracks in populated cities, a white fence was put up against the requests of Davis City councilmembers to wait for an at-grade crossing to be approved by the California Public Utilities Commission (CPUC).
According to City Councilmember Sue Greenwald, “an at-grade crossing would allow a crossing like a gate that warns when a train is coming; people would go straight through, not cross over or under.”
Greenwald said that city council submitted an application for an at-grade crossing, but it may be expensive and difficult to get.
Between 1998 and 2011, a total of five deaths occurred along the tracks. Although it is illegal to cross the tracks, some people still manage to make their way onto the track, only to be pulled off by workers of the Amtrak station.
Greenwald and other city councilmembers met up with the city manager and UP to negotiate alternatives. These alternatives consist of an aesthetically better-looking fence that would make the area look nicer and/or an at-grade crossing, Greenwald said.
Instead, UP went ahead with procedures and built the fence.
Andoni Chaniotakis, a junior plant science major, frequently visits friends who live in the area. Before the fence was built, he would cross the tracks about four times a week.
Although he sees that “it serves a purpose to keep people off the tracks, it should have a crossing point. People don’t like to take the long loop if there is a shorter way available (crossing the tracks).”
In addition to the physical barrier the fence imposes, it also creates a sense of division among the community located between the fence and the Interstate 80. The fence causes a divide that does not need to be there, Chaniotakis said.
“Now they [residents of Olive Drive] are very far away,” Chaniotakis said, “so it cuts off traffic toward a great neighborhood.”
Breana Moreno, a junior neurobiology, physiololgy and behavior major, also stated that it is an inconvenience since she goes to church right across from the tracks. Things would be much easier and less time consuming if the fence was not there at all, she said.
It is a huge inconvenience, but change is always difficult. For Chaniotakis, the fence “has not affected the frequency of his visits, only the length of walking.”
So far, no one has officially complained and people have gotten used to the fence, Greenwald said.
For now, the wait continues for the CPUC to approve an application for an at-grade crossing.
MEE YANG can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.