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$311 fine for playing chicken
Police ticket 20 for ignoring crossing arms
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Two Manteca patrol cars are seen through a front window of a Union Pacific diesel engine Wednesday morning waiting for violators at the Center Street crossing. - photo by GLENN KAHL
Operation Safety saw some 20 citations issued to Manteca motorists Wednesday morning for trying to beat or drive around railroad crossing gates and others who just stopped on the tracks waiting for vehicle traffic or a signal.

The operation was part of the state legislature’s mandate for Rail Safety Month in California. Union Pacific brought out a section of their Presidential train from Council Bluff, IA.  Chico, Sacramento, Manteca, and Fresno all took part in the safety effort throughout the week.

Traffic officers from Manteca, Ripon, Union Pacific and AMTRAK police departments gathered on Moffat Boulevard at 8:30 waiting for the Union Pacific diesel engines and their Pullman Cars to arrive. Manteca Police officer Steve Walker organized the local enforcement effort.

Motorcycle officers and patrolmen were stationed with their vehicles at the train crossings between Austin Road and Airport Way as the train made several high profile runs to make the citizenry aware of the dangers of trying to beat a train – the train usually wins.

Newspaper reporters and television cameras were on hand both on board the train as well as on the city streets. Ripon motorcycle officer Stephen Meece was stationed near the crossing in the 400 block of West Yosemite Avenue positioning himself next to a veterinary hospital.

A motorist drove across the crossing as the red lights began to flash and the gates started to come down.  It was his citation for the morning and he had the driver stopped within 500 feet.  He quoted the driver as saying she didn’t see the gates or the red lights.  The ticket will cost her $311.

Another car northbound on Union Road slipped under the gate as the train was traveling westbound toward Airport Way.  That motorist was one that slipped away toward Lathrop Road.

The traffic officers were given the opportunity for one ride aboard the engine so they could see the potential dangers through the eyes of the train crew.  Most officers carry tragic memories with them of past train-vehicle crashes and deaths.

A Union Pacific safety warning notes that it takes the average freight train traveling 55 miles an hour a mile or more to come to a stop -- the length of 18 football fields.  If the locomotive engineer is able to see you on the tracks, it is too late for him to stop the train.

The public is urged to report any problem they see on the tracks whether it is a stalled vehicle, a damaged sign, and obstructed view or signal malfunctions.  Citizens can call the emergency notification number posted on or near the crossing or call their local 911.