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After fatal collision, railroad safety concerns continue in Santa Barbara


After Tuesday night’s deadly collision between a train and pedestrian near the Las Positas overpass in Santa Barbara, railroad safety remains a concern.

Mayor Cathy Murillo told NewsChannel 3 Wednesday that she sends her condolences to the victim’s family and friends. She also called the city’s railroad corridor “porous.”

Nick Cabugos of Santa Barbara Public Works says that some areas are more protected than others.

“We just have a lot of different areas where people could access and get on to the tracks if they wanted to,” he said.

That’s the challenge for Public Works. They work to keep the railroad corridor clean and safe by repairing fencing and removing homeless camps.

It’s part of an agreement called a “memorandum of understanding” with other city departments as well as Union Pacific, which owns the county’s railroad tracks.

“There are a lot of people who access the tracks, go in and out of the city right of way on to the Union Pacific right of way,” Cabugos said. “And we don’t want that here. We have to minimize it to reduce accidents and for the safety of the corridor.”

Earlier this year, the city responded to a report by the Santa Barbara County Grand Jury that discussed options for safer tracks.

New signage is up at busy crossings as part of an effort to reduce accidents. In overgrown areas, the city is clearing out homeless camps that pose a safety threat to those who live there. But there is no simple solution.

“We want taxpayers to know that we’re doing our best to maintain our environment here,” Cabugos said. “And also at the same time, we feel for the people who don’t have a place to go. I can’t imagine having to sleep out there, literally in bushes.”

The current budget set by Union Pacific allows Public Works to remove a homeless camp once every three months. For now, Cabugos says, that should be enough to keep the area around the tracks relatively safe.

“Maybe [the budget] could increase with some grants in the future, for specifically the railroad corridor,” he said. “But right now, it’s sufficient enough… So if we are able to stay consistent and on top of it, I think it’s gonna work out.”

KEYT 2019

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