Meeting Will Go to Heart of Rail Safety in Santa Ana

Times Staff Writer

Officials from Metrolink, railroad companies and Santa Ana will meet next week to discuss how to make safer a crossing that has been named among the most dangerous in California.

The officials will meet Thursday where the tracks cross McFadden Avenue in Santa Ana. The crossing was named one of California's 10 riskiest by the Federal Railroad Administration in 2001.

Since the publication, the nine other crossings have been slated for major improvements, ranging from underpasses and new safety arms to closing a road that crossed the tracks in the desert town of Amboy.

The other crossings are in Anaheim, Fresno, Los Angeles, Merced, Santa Fe Springs and the small Stanislaus County city of Riverbank.

Two people have died in five accidents at the Santa Ana crossing since 1995.

Santa Ana City Councilman Jose Solorio said the meeting will address a problem that is growing in the public eye. "I think we are realizing this is a problem," said Solorio. "It's more significant than we all thought."

State officials have promised $200,000 in federal funds for gates that pedestrians would have to open before crossing the tracks. It is not clear when the funding will be available.

Crossings in Santa Ana drew renewed attention after the Sept. 16 death of a motorist whose car was hit by a Metrolink train at Lyon Street, just down the tracks from McFadden. Both crossings, and a third one at Ritchey Street, are in a neighborhood where schoolchildren and workers cross the double set of tracks daily.

Three years ago, a 12-year-old was killed at McFadden when she darted in front of a northbound Metrolink train.

Months before that, a 25-year-old pedestrian was killed by a southbound Amtrak train.

Metrolink spokeswoman Sharon Gavin said officials on Thursday will look at the track configuration and discuss different pedestrian gates for the crossing.

City Engineer George Alvarez said he will look for immediate solutions.

Gavin said officials were not considering a costly grade separation, which was done at one of the 10 riskiest crossings and is slated for two others.

Officials from Santa Ana, the Orange County Transportation Authority, the California Public Utilities Commission, Amtrak and Burlington Northern Santa Fe are expected to attend the meeting.

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