New Safety Measures Studied in Wake of SMART Crossing Deaths

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Investigators from the Sonoma Marin Area Rail Transit were in Rohnert Park on Monday, investigating possible additional safety measures at the crossing where two pedestrians were killed, on two consecutive days, last week.

The SMART General Manager is also promising a full investigation of the deaths, while Rohnert Park Public Safety investigators have begun a probe of their own.

The SMART team was tasked with looking for ways to make the Golf Course Drive crossing safer, which includes studying how pedestrians and cyclists behave as they approach the crossing.

The crossing is protected by signs, gate barrier arms, flashing lights, bells and placards that are designed to keep cars, bikes and pedestrians away as a train is approaching.   The crossing is also in a so called “quiet zone” where conductors do not routinely sound horns as trains approach the crossing, unless it is an emergency situation.

A preliminary review has found that all safety measures including flashing lights, guardrails and ringing alarms were operating normally, but somehow failed to stop a pedestrian early Thursday, and a cyclist early Friday.

Both were killed when struck by passing trains in the early morning hours.

In the Thursday incident, a woman, 30 year old Jimmie Joy Qualls, was struck and killed after she apparently ducked under a gate crossing arm.  She reportedly had been warned by SMART code enforcement to stay off the tracks.

In the Friday accident, a middle aged man was hit after he rode his bicycle onto the tracks from the south sidewalk and apparently did not notice the approaching train until too late.

The Golf Course Drive crossing is reportedly used many by homeless people, who cross there to use bathrooms and reach shopping, and which some believe may be a factor in the incidents.

The SMART team is reportly looking at additional physical barriers, like gates the would either slow down or block pedestrians and cyclists as they approach the tracks.

In all, three of the six people struck and killed along the 43 miles of tracks since SMART service started almost two years ago have died at the Golf Course Drive crossing.







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