A viral photograph showing the railroad crossing arms on Walnut Avenue not going down as a train passed spurred a discussion on social media on Thursday about how long it will be before grade separations are seriously considered in a growing city that is split in half by nine railroad crossings.
Hundreds of people shared the image on Thursday that shows traffic on both sides of the railroad crossing on Walnut Ave. sitting as a train passes through the heart of Manteca while both crossing arms remain up – a safety hazard that is typically responded to immediately when reported to Union Pacific.
According to Manteca City Councilman Gary Singh, discussions about grade separations are already starting to be had at the regional planning level as the number of trains passing through Manteca continues to increase as the city grows by leaps and bounds – creating a situation where more traffic is waiting longer periods of time for trains to clear.
But while cities like Lathrop were able to build flyover bridges over railroad tracks that saw large numbers of daily trains – two of them were constructed on Lathrop Road to prevent traffic backups and create a clean, straight line between I-5 and Highway 99 – Manteca’s railroad crossings are close to both neighborhoods and commercial properties making conventional overpasses like the ones constructed in Lathrop impossible to achieve without massive costs.
One possibility that was referenced by Singh during an exchange with a constituent was the possibility that the existing railroad tracks could be sunken into a tunnel that would allow for the train to pass through town while traffic at what was the traditional crossing passes over without any requirement to stop. Whether that is feasible from an engineering standpoint was not discussed, and any sort of undertaking of that type would likely require the participation and funding support of a host of local, regional, state, and federal agencies.
While crossing arms have long been used as a way to alert traffic that a train is approaching, some local cities – like Lathrop – have railroad crossings like the one on Howland Road near the J.R. Simplot corporate offices that only have flashing signals
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