Saturday, June 06, 2009

Grade Crossings: Letter to the Daily News

Printed in the 6/5 edition: Tragedies show need for grade separations at rail crossings

Dear Editor: A few more troubled teens have taken their lives on the Caltrain tracks, and ironically, the solution to this plague — complete grade separation — is being fought by the railway’s neighbors. Like the perpetually postponed Golden Gate Bridge suicide barrier, the issue is aesthetic: the California High Speed Rail Authority proposes to el­evate the tracks but neighbors want them buried in a tunnel.

The result may well turn into a stalemate, delaying grade separation for decades, or killing the project entirely.

If we value human life (and more prosaically, if we want more reliable train service and to spend our tax dollars effectively) we should try to defuse this conflict and make grade separation a reality as soon as we can. In cities such as Palo Alto, many former grade crossings — San Antonio, California, Embarcadero, University — have already been replaced with overpasses and underpasses. The rest can be divided into major streets that also need grade separation, and minor crossings that can just be closed.

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