The Ghost Train

By Clint Worthington

Yes, it’s a funny name. No, you won’t find it on the Historic Society’s Halloween Walking Tour. The Ghost Train occurs when any south bound train stops at the San Juan Capistrano station, causing the gates at the Del Obispo crossing to go down for an average of two minutes. Then, just as the crossing gates go back up, the train leaves the station causing the crossing gates to go back down again for another two minutes. Multiply this by the number of trains stopping at the station daily and it adds up to downtown traffic congestion.

To compound problems, Council members Sam Allevato, Laura Freese and Mark Nielsen voted to add vehicle traffic signals to the crossing. This makes no sense since we already have traffic signals at Camino Capistrano and Paseo Adelanto. If you ask current and prior City Council members, I’m sure they’ll tell you that the signals are timed so that traffic doesn’t block the railroad crossing. But having sat at a red light many times when there’s no traffic on Del Obispo, that doesn’t ring true.

If you’re confused by this crossing, you’re not alone. Click on this link: to watch a You Tube video of a City truck not only go through the flashing red lights of the crossing gates, but also through the red traffic signal on the other side.

Prior to the median widening at the Del Obispo crossing, vehicles were able to pull over to the right to allow emergency vehicles to pass. But the median widening moved the traffic lanes to the right and eliminated room for emergency vehicles to pass on the left. The traffic lanes on either side of the crossing are too narrow to allow emergency vehicles to pass which potentially leaves them stopped at the railroad crossing for up to five minutes. That can mean the difference between life and death.

Taxpayers paid for an “Opticom” system that activates traffic lights at the nearest crossings to turn green for emergency vehicles. As part of a solution to the problem of the signal at the Del Obispo crossing turning red for no apparent reason (and backing up traffic), why not add an Opticom to that signal to turn it green for emergency vehicles? This would prevent some of the traffic that backs up due to the signal being programmed to turn red at regular intervals.

If you’re as unhappy about the poor planning of this crossing as I am, let current Council members Sam Allevato and Laura Freese know that you want changes now. Traffic is bad enough without City meddlers making it worse.

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