Francisco Orellana, 54, of Reseda had a simple reason when asked why there were 16 traffic collisions involving trains last year in the city of Los Angeles.
“People think they can beat the train,” Orellana, an air conditioning worker, said Wednesday as he munched on a roast beef sandwich in a Sylmar parking lot near a train crossing at San Fernando Road and Roxford Street.
About a mile away, Los Angeles police handed out 30 citations during a railroad traffic safety and enforcement detail at the Department of Water and Power Metropolitan Water Facility at 14031 South San Fernando Road.
Los Angeles Police Department Detective William Bustos, who leads Valley traffic detectives, said the traffic collisions involving trains happen because pedestrians and motorists do not abide by traffic laws. He did not immediately have figures for 2015 but said people using public transportation — specifically trains — has increased, which led to the Wednesday’s enforcement.
“So that’s why it’s important,” Bustos said.
Bustos remembers one incident on March 29 of this year which involved a 21-year-old man who was fatally struck by an Amtrak train west of Laurel Canyon Boulevard in North Hollywood. Ed Winter of the Los Angeles County Department of Medical Examiner-Coroner said it appeared the man had been tagging but had no further information.
Wednesday’s location was selected for the detail because the area was “problematic,” Bustos said.
Union Pacific uses the area, Bustos explained, and his department has seen drivers fail to yield to locomotives despite blinking red lights. They want to prevent tragic more traffic collisions from occurring.
“San Fernando Road is a well-traveled street that people use quite a bit commuting to and from work or school or wherever their going and they need to be aware of the railroad track crossing there,” Bustos explained.
The citations for the 30 drivers during Wednesday’s operation — no pedestrians were cited — could reach hundreds of dollars, he said.
Additionally, Bustos said some passenger trains travel at approximately 78 mph while freight trains can hit speeds of 55 mph.
Away from the operation at San Fernando and Roxford, Mateo Weston, 31, of Long Beach was waiting for a friend to pick him up near the train crossing, which was the closest crossing near the enforcement detail.
While Weston has been to the area more than a handful of times and had not seen any train accidents personally, Weston said the issue of people getting struck by trains did not surprise him.
“You hear about it always,” Weston said. “I’ve been hearing about it since I was young. A lot of people are careless on the train tracks — period.”
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