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Fence stops dangerous shortcuts
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A mile-long safety fence along the Union Pacific Railroad was dedicated Wednesday. Manteca Vice Mayor Vince Hernandez is seen cutting the ribbon. From left are Peggy Lyda, UP public safety manager; Liisa Stark, UP director of public affairs; Hernandez and Councilwoman Debby Moorhead; Pat McGrath, UP special agent; and Randy Egusquiza, director of train operations. - photo by GLENN KAHL

The chances of pedestrians taking deadly shortcuts across Union Pacific Railroad’s main rail line through Manteca between Main Street and Industrial Park Drive has been greatly reduced.

That’s because Union Pacific paid to have a mile-long fence valued at $250,000 installed to prevent youth - primarily students walking to and from Manteca High - from cutting across the tracks. The fence was installed at no charge to Manteca in exchange for the city maintaining it. The fence also enhances safety along the Moffat Boulevard leg of the Tidewater Bikeway that runs alongside it.

It is part of a system wide effort by Union Pacific to erect safety barriers in areas where young people tend to cross tracks illegally. In this case, the aim is to eliminate the possibility of teens going to and from Manteca High from the Woodward Park neighborhoods from taking shortcuts across the tracks.

UP officials approached Councilman Vince Hernandez about the possibility of erecting the fence during an Operation Lifesaver effort in Manteca earlier this year. Operation Lifesaver is aimed at educating – and ticketing – those motorists and pedestrians who repeatedly ignore flashing signals and crossing arms. The fence was dedicated after a follow-up Operation Lifesaver on Wednesday.

The railroad has erected fences in other communities where a high number of walkers come in close proximity with its tracks. Those communities include Fresno, Oakland, Richmond, and Live Oak.

Not all communities embrace the UP’s efforts. Davis, as an example, is against such a fence as they believe it would cut the residents and school children of a poor area off from that city’s downtown.

UP’s stance in Davis is the same as it is elsewhere. They want to prevent trespassing on UP property while at the same time protects the public’s safety.

The City of Manteca about eight years ago put its own low maintenance, high fence along the Union Pacific tracks from Center Street to the Walnut Place Park sound wall to prevent youth cutting across the tracks to reach the skate park