|Vote Is Likely To
Derail Crossing Upgrade
June 27, 1999
CONTRA COSTA TIMES
RICHMOND CITY COUNCIL WILL CONSIDER A BURLINGTON NORTHERN SANTA FE PLAN TO REPLACE NOSTALGIC WIG-WAG LIGHTS AT AN INTERSECTION
Sunday, June 27, 1999
City officials are likely to turn down a proposal to upgrade a historic railroad crossing in Point Richmond.
Under a proposal by Burlington Northern Santa Fe Railway Co., the quaint, ages-old wig-wag warnings at the bustling intersection of West Richmond, Railroad Avenue and Garrard Boulevard would be replaced with conventional crossing arms, flashing lights and pavement markings.
But Point Richmond residents say they like the intersection just the way it is, and the City Council is inclined to agree.
"It's just overkill for this picturesque location," said Mayor Rosemary Corbin, a Point Richmond resident. "It's an historic district. It would really deface it."
The council is expected to consider the proposal Tuesday.
The crossing, owned and operated by Burlington Northern Santa Fe Railway Co., is on a list of about 300 in line for improvement statewide.
The Point Richmond work, which would cost about $277,000, is part of a four-year railroad improvement plan funded by the California Public Utility Commission and Caltrans.
But the city is under no obligation to comply, said commission engineer Tack Joe.
The city's cost would be about $40,000, including the installation of warning signs and pavement markers and street work, said Rick Karvosky, public services director.
"It's up to the city whether they're willing to put in their 10 percent share of the cost," Joe said.
Council members say money isn't the issue.
Laid in 1900, the 2.2-mile rail line was the busy western terminus of the Atchison, Topeka & Santa Fe railroad, but in recent years it has been used lightly as a transfer station.
Trains lumber through the intersection about half a dozen times a day as they switch tracks or head to a nearby storage facility.
Railroad officials assert that the wig-wags are outdated and provide minimal protection to pedestrians and vehicles.
Point Richmond residents argue that safety isn't a concern.
"This is not seen as a dangerous crossing," said Councilman Tom Butt, a Point Richmond resident. "The problem is not that the trains go too fast. The problem is the trains go too slow."
At least 15 cars crossed the tracks during a five-minute warning Thursday afternoon. No train ever showed.
"Nobody goes fast there," said Marie Peckham, a longtime resident and co-owner of the Santa Fe Market. "Everybody always stops. Everybody obeys those flashing lights. It's not going to make the area safer."
Recognizing the wig-wags' sentimental value to the people of Point Richmond, railroad officials have said they would donate them to the city if they were replaced. Residents say that won't do.
Shawn Masten covers Richmond. Reach her at 510-262-2725 or email@example.com.