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Wigwag Update
May 14, 2002

Tonight, the Richmond City Council will consider the recommendation by the Public safety Committee to file an objection to the wigwag removal with the PUC. If you favor retention of the wigwags, you should show up at the Richmond City Council meeting to show your support.

The following story was in today’s West County Times:

Richmond mulls wigwag rail crossings' fate

By Greg Cannon

RICHMOND - The City Council will decide tonight if it will appeal to a state commission for a public hearing on the fate of the Point Richmond wigwag rail-crossing signals.
Four months after the Burlington Northern Santa Fe Railway tried installing crossing gates where its train track crosses Richmond Avenue, the gates still aren't up, but the wigwags they were meant to replace are, thanks to pressure from city officials and local residents.
Since the city issued a stop-work order in January, the council has granted the wigwags historic status and residents have formed the Save the Wigwag Committee. The historic designation means public hearings would have to precede the wigwags' removal. The committee recently issued a long report detailing the controversy and refuting railway arguments for the need to install gates.
But railway officials insist safety dictates that the outmoded wigwags be replaced with gates. In recent meetings with city officials, they presented a compromise that would install crossing gates, leave one wigwag in place and move the other elsewhere for display.
The council's public safety committee passed on the plan last week and will instead ask the full council to call on the state Public Utilities Commission for a public hearing.
The council will consider the issue as part of its consent calendar, a section of the agenda reserved for routine items requiring little or no discussion.
A Burlington Northern Santa Fe spokeswoman urged against a PUC hearing, saying it would further delay making the crossing safe. "We made a compromise that makes the crossing safe and preserves the wigwags," said railway spokeswoman Lena Kent.
In a May 8 letter to Mayor Irma Anderson, Assemblywoman Dion Aroner, D-Berkeley, urged the council to continue its opposition to crossing gates. Aroner alluded to the absence of a record of vehicle vs. train accidents and wrote that the issue could be resolved if the railroad abandoned the crossing.
Kent says alternatives were investigated but are not feasible.
In a recent internal memo, Interim Planning Manager Bob Brown told council members that the railroad had threatened the city with legal action, but Kent said, "I think at this point we're still wanting to work with the city."


Greg Cannon covers Richmond. Reach him at 510-262-2713 or e-mail gcannon@cctimes.com.