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Penngrove Station by Lyndi Brown - May 2016


Penngrove Station  - May 2016

by Lyndi Brown

By Guest Columnist Burr Wilson

You’ve read about it: “There’s a Train Coming to Town”. And now the new train cars are rolling through town with increasing frequency, as SMART ramps up its system-wide testing of trains, tracks, signals and communications system prior to full service start-up later this year. However you must be alert to catch sight of a SMART train in Penngrove, for the railroad tracks through town are curvy and the trains are hidden by trackside buildings and vegetation. Trains come into view a few seconds before passing over the roadways here, elevating concerns for a deadly collision or disastrous derailment occurring at a grade crossing. Community outreach meetings have been held with railroad officers, elected leaders, public safety and appointed officials, and concerned citizens, to thoroughly examine the conflicting issues that arise at these grade crossings. All parties agree that safety is the highest priority, and the meetings have culminated in some immediate and future safety improvements at the railroad tracks and on the roadway.

The grade crossing at Main Street and Woodward Avenue is particularly cluttered and congested. Here, the optimum safety measure appears to be a four-quadrant gate system. However, “4-quads” are costly to install and maintain. In February, the County Board of Supervisors authorized Public Works to perform a study incorporating 4-quads in a comprehensive traffic mitigation plan. Meanwhile, a median barrier has been placed in roadway approaches to the track, discouraging motorists from skirting around lowered crossing gate arms and violating the train’s right-of-way. In collaboration with Public Works, SMART temporarily replaced the controversial concrete median barriers with “Qwick Kurbs” traffic channelization devices, a new type of rubber module featuring flexible rubber delineators and bright yellow reflective surfaces (developed in Germany for use on the Autobahn). You can’t miss seeing ‘em but should your vehicle accidentally run over ‘em, they’ll bend over and then rebound to an upright position, purportedly without damage. The Qwick Kurbs are garish (some say Main Street now looks like an airport terminal), but the delineators can be easily removed and replaced to accommodate temporary street events or roadway repairs. It’s anticipated that Qwick Kurbs will be deployed at the Adobe Road grade crossing, and perhaps at other nearby grade crossings.

Locals and visitors, please observe the new active, lighted signs along Main Street, advising motorists “DO NOT STOP ON TRACKS”. That’s plain common sense, but during afternoon traffic congestion on Main Street, drivers are stopping inside of the grade crossing limit lines. Those solar powered signs will sense vehicle traffic, and then flash a bright border around the signage, emphasizing this vital message not to obstruct the railroad track. It’s anticipated that Public Works will be painting zebra stripes on the roadway, emphasizing the keep out areas of the crossing.

A new fence has been erected along the railroad right-of-way below the Woodward hill, to discourage pedestrians from crossing the tracks behind the Ronsheimer market building. We are informed that a designated pedestrian crossing and sidewalk extension will be constructed at the Main Street grade crossing as part of a comprehensive traffic plan being developed by Public Works.

Along the SMART rail corridor, state-of-the-art electronic equipment has been installed in grade crossing signal equipment cabinets, to reliably detect the approach of trains and to operate the warning lights and gates with minimal interruption of roadway traffic. If a grade crossing equipment malfunction is suspected or you happen to see a hazard on the track, there are Emergency Notification Signs posted on the crossing signals, with identification and telephone numbers available for anyone to report a problem directly to SMART for immediate corrective action. At the recommendation of county supervisor David Rabbitt, SMART has produced business cards with emergency numbers and contact information, and these are being distributed to Penngrove businesses closest to the tracks.

This week, the SMART Board of Directors presented a proposed schedule of services for train service from Santa Rosa to San Rafael, indicating that on weekdays trains will be passing through Penngrove every 15 minutes during the morning (5-9 AM) and afternoon (4-8 PM) peak commuter rush hours. Keep an eye and ear out for that “Train Down Main”. 

Please email your Penngrove news or idea by the first week of each month. 

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