Railroad Fence

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 Wasn't there a murder burger employee who died crossing the tracks after work? I can't find it on ["Tragic Events/Train Accidents"]. What side of Richards was that on, would the fence have covered that situation? Because there is already the pedestrian tunnel on the west side of Richards, a ramp up to Pole Line Road seems like the next best thing to do. -["Users/NickSchmalenberger"]

Olive Drive residents deserve safe passage

By Alan C. Miller | Special to The Enterprise | November 27, 2010

For more than a century, the Olive Drive community has been part of Central Davis by virtue of easy pedestrian access over the railroad tracks. At any given moment, one can stand on the east end of the station platform and view a nearly constant flow of pedestrians across the tracks at several access points.

As a child visiting my sister at college in the early 1970s, I remember watching hippies pass through the mysterious hole in the fence across from the train station. The railroad welded some rails in front of the hole years later. A new hole 'formed' in the fence at the end of this barrier and the flow continued.

Olive Drive's history as part of Central Davis, however, is about to end.

A Nov. 4 article in The Davis Enterprise alerted residents that a fence would be erected along the tracks. Here are the details: The fence will be 'impenetrable' steelreinforced wrought-iron; 3,800 feet long and 8 feet high; cost $250,000 in materials; begin at Richards Boulevard and end nearly three-quarters of a mile east at the Olive Drive offramp just a few hundred feet short of Sudwerk; and have no access points.

The Olive Drive community will quite literally be walled in.

Deaths have occurred along the tracks at random intervals and locations at a rate of about one every year or two for the past few decades, yet not even a simple fence has been erected to block access at L Street or Hickory Lane as a token. That is, not until a quarter-million dollars in public transportation bond funds became available.

Of the dozen person-vs.-train accidents in Davis proper over the past couple of decades, fewer than half were adjacent to the proposed fence, and only one or two might have been prevented by this fence. Most have been suicides, very intoxicated people, vehicle incidents, crimes or other random events. None that I can recall were happy sober persons crossing the tracks, who, like the proverbial chicken, simply wanted 'to get to the other side.'

The fence attempts to address the symptom (people crossing the tracks), but not the problem (no convenient, safe way for Olive Drive residents to reach downtown). History has shown that one cannot simply wall in a community that has been part of another community. There is something unseemly about walling in the area of town with the lowest income, lowest rate of car ownership and highest percentage of minorities with what amounts to a border fence. The sheer number of crossings may be curtailed, but even more risky behavior to circumvent the fence will be the result.

Pedestrians and bicyclists will move to cross beyond the limits of the fence. On the east end, some children heading to schools in East Davis will find the end of the fence and cross near Sudwerk, passing in front of the dangerous freeway offramp to Olive Drive, then crossing the railroad at a point where there are four tracks, trains are accelerating, and parked railroad cars and switching operations pose additional hazards.
On the west end, there is legal passage, but safety remains a concern. Taylor Jaco Pope, an Olive Drive homeowner and father of two young children, is concerned about his children's safety when the fence is erected.

'Now we have easy access to downtown through a coded gate,' he says. 'My children know about trains and to stay out of the way. With this fence, we will be forced to pass through the very busy intersection at Olive and Richards. We've seen two accidents there in the last month. What we'd really like to see is a safe and legal way for our family to get downtown.'

There are two needed crossings, one into downtown and one into East Davis. A ramp from the east end of Olive Drive to the Pole Line Road overpass would offer safer access to East Davis and additionally would offer safer access to South Davis. As the bridge is already built, the minimal amount of additional infrastructure can be completed at a relatively low cost.

Downtown, a pedestrian/ bicycle bridge from Hickory Lane into the Amtrak station can be constructed using city-owned land, but the structure itself will cost a couple of million dollars.

A quarter-million dollars is a good down payment on that bridge. The city should request that part of the available public safety funds go toward these legal crossings to give the residents the option of safe passage. By cobbling together local funding sources, money from the Sacramento Area Council of Governments, and with assistance from state and federal representatives, these long-needed crossings can be built.

Olive Drive residents will no longer have to play chicken to cross the railroad, just 'to get to the other side.'

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