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Train sting nails motorists, pedestrians
Dozen face $300 fines after ignoring crossing guard arms
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Riding his bicycle across the Union Pacific Railroad tracks on Yosemite Avenue about 10:30 Wednesday morning earned Joshua Vandiver, 31, of Manteca an expensive ticket when he was spotted by Officer Jason Hensley. Just across the roadway is a memorial to a male pedestrian killed by a train at that location several months ago. - photo by GLENN KAHL

Five days after a 33-year-old Manteca man walked into the path of a train Union Pacific Railroad Police teamed up with their Manteca counterparts to stage a safety sting operation.

The Wednesday morning sting dubbed  “UP Cares” was designed to make Manteca motorists and pedestrians more aware of the dangers of the seven railroad crossing in the community that have seen a number of people killed and injured in the past few years.

Nearly a dozen citations were issued.  Manteca officers partnered with the UP Police  were stationed near those crossings, watching for vehicles driving under the arms as four engines made a continuous loop north and south on the tracks.  Two of those citations were for trespassing on railroad property.

Manteca Officer Jason Hensley had parked his black and white cruiser near Library Park with an eye on the Yosemite Avenue crossing.  It wasn’t long before Hensley witnessed a 31-year-old Manteca man ride his bicycle across the tracks under the crossing arms as a train was approaching.  He, too, received a citation for the expected $250 to $300 fine.

Three Manteca motorcycle officers and three patrol units stationed themselves in appropriate locations where they could watch the train pass through the crossings.  When someone violated crossing warning lights and gates there were officers on both sides of the train.   One officer would radio to a partner on the other side of the tracks to make the stop. 

There were two women, who casually walked across the tracks as the train approached, showing surprise when an officer pulled up next to them at the curbing and issued them a citation.

It was just last Saturday morning that a man was hit at the Center Street crossing by a northbound freight train. The man remains in critical condition at last report at county hospital in French Camp.

Union Pacific staged its Crossing Accident Reduction Education and Safety event in an effort to help Manteca residents better understand the dangers that exist on and around railroad tracks.  The UP’s efforts have reduced grade crossing accident rates by 37 percent in the past dozen years.

The railroad’s media director Aaron Hunt said following the event Wednesday that his company works hard to raise the awareness that railroad property is never a safe place for residents to enter.  More specifically, he said that 442 people died last year alone while trespassing on railroad property throughout the U.S., according to the Federal Railroad Administration.

“Freight trains are deceptively quiet,” he added. “Depending on the prevailing winds, you may not hear them approaching from a distance.  It typically takes more than one mile to stop a freight train.  And if anything is on the tracks, it’s like an automobile hitting a soda can.”

Hunt added that freight trains extend several feet beyond the side of the tracks, so pedestrians should never be near the tracks when a train is approaching.

In past years, the Safety Train would bring a short string of passenger cars to provide city and county officials with a firsthand look at what the locomotive engineers see on a daily basis as they pass through the community.   This year the train was only made up of a series of locomotives.

The UP has also installed fencing along track right-of-way between Industrial Park Drive and Center Street to prevent pedestrians from taking short cuts across the tracks.