UP to fix uneven tracks

A truck speeds across the railroad tracks on Highway 25 near

Hollister
– For years the railroad crossing on Highway 25 just south of
Gilroy in Santa Clara County has been an unwelcome jolt that could
drive fear into any vehicle’s shocks. But in only two short months,
the uneven crossing should be a breeze to traverse thanks to a
mandate Union Pacific Railroad receive
d to fix the tracks.
Hollister – For years the railroad crossing on Highway 25 just south of Gilroy in Santa Clara County has been an unwelcome jolt that could drive fear into any vehicle’s shocks. But in only two short months, the uneven crossing should be a breeze to traverse thanks to a mandate Union Pacific Railroad received to fix the tracks.

A large number of citizen complaints, along with the danger it poses to motorists, prompted the California Public Utilities Commission to order Union Pacific to repair the uneven line by May 17, according to John Bromley, spokesman for Union Pacific. Complaints from Free Lance readers – the condition of the tracks is a common complaint heard in the paper’s Red Phone column – helped expedite the process, he said.

“Because of the public outcry of the condition of the crossing… they gave us this deadline,” Bromley said. “I don’t know what the consequences would be, but we intend to comply with that order.”

After receiving complaints from residents about the troublesome track, an inspector from the Public Utilities Commission examined the crossing last month and noted that the concrete panels for both tracks are in need of repair, according to the letter the PUC sent to Union Pacific. Bromley estimated that Union Pacific will have to shell out at least $20,000 to make the repairs. The repairs will require in a complete closure of a portion of the highway for at least two days, he said.

Inspector Kevin Boles reported that the concrete within the panels of the tracks is cracked and disjointed, and motorists slow down and often drive onto the shoulder to avoid crossing them, according to the letter. Because the crossing is on a state highway with a speed limit of 55 mph, motorists slowing down and driving to the side of the road to cross the tracks increases the risk of accidents, Boles said in the letter.

PUC spokeswoman Terrie Prosper said the crossing was inspected two years ago and the concrete panels were in good condition at that time. However, concrete panels are supposed to last 20 years and after inspecting them again it was determined a total repair of the line needed to take place, she said.

For Hollister resident Willalea Adams, the jarring crossing became more than an inconvenience. It became a $600 mechanic’s bill when the flywheel of her 2002 Chevy Impala broke after crossing the tracks, she said.

Before hitting the crossing, Adams noticed a police car parked on the side of the road and she automatically slowed down. But even at a reduced speed, her car suddenly died when she hit the tracks, she said.

“The jar was so hard when I went over that railroad track that it just broke it. Union Pacific should have to pay for breaking my flywheel,” Adams said. “I’ve lived here since 1986 and it’s never been so bad as it is right now. I told my friend afterward, I should have gotten a (speeding) ticket. It would have been cheaper.”

Bromley didn’t know when workers will begin mending the rough crossing, but said Union Pacific is working with Caltrans to get a permit to close the highway for two to three days.

They haven’t detailed an alternative route for motorists who use the crossing to get from Santa Clara County to San Benito County, but said it will be at least a six or seven mile detour to get around. Details on the project still need to be worked out because Union Pacific received the notice from the Public Utilities Commission just last week, Bromley said.

The crossing has been troublesome for motorists and their cars for years because of the rugged tracks laid across the uneven asphalt. To fix the problem, workers will have to remove the tracks and build up the ground underneath so it’s level, Bromley said.

“It requires a lot of work on the crossing itself,” he said. “As everyone knows, it’s been a long, ongoing issue and we’ve had a lot of complaints. We wish they were all smooth as ice, but the reality is they get worn out and it takes a long time to do this kind of work.”

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