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Train Death Prevention Gains Traction

County Agencies Will Begin Discussing Options in Response to Grand Jury Evaluation

Multiple agencies will begin discussing options to prevent train deaths. | Credit: Paul Wellman

More people have died on train tracks in Santa Barbara County than in comparable neighboring counties in recent years, and a Grand Jury report issued in June laid out solutions that included a safety plan, fencing, trimming foliage, a sealed corridor in the danger zone, security patrols, and video surveillance. County supervisors responded on Monday, agreeing only with the first of the six recommendations.

High numbers of homeless encampments have sprouted from Ortega Hill in Summerland to Milpas Street in the City of Santa Barbara and from Patterson Avenue to Glen Annie Road in Goleta ​— ​where 85 percent of the deaths occurred. Twelve of the 20 victims were homeless, and 12 deaths are considered suicides.

The supervisors will begin meeting to develop a safety plan within the next six months, the report stated. The S.B. County Association of Governments will be the lead agency for county stakeholders, including Union Pacific and the Sheriff’s Office, for the meetings, the supervisors stated at Tuesday’s meeting. The issues of fencing and foliage were up to Union Pacific, according to the report, which also said sealed corridors only enhanced safety at railroad crossings, where none of the 20 deaths occurred.

The Sheriff’s Office has signed a Memoranda of Understanding with Union Pacific Railroad for increased security patrols, but the contract contained no additional funding, so patrols are based on existing staffing levels. Similarly, the supervisors’ report found a lack of staff and resources to respond to any trespassers caught on surveillance camera.

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