Extension of fence along railroad tracks will help protect pedestrians, city says

Extending the fence along the railroad tracks where 17-year-old Oscar Gonzalez was killed in San Luis Obispo is part of a city plan to provide better security for pedestrians and bicycles, according to city officials.

The city’s plan includes 7-foot black security fencing to prevent pedestrians and bicyclists from crossing the tracks — except in designated crossing locations.

Some fencing has already been completed near Cal Poly and by the depot on Railroad Avenue, officials said Friday.

“Major segments already have been installed,” said Michael Codron, acting assistant city manager. “The segment in this area (near the location of Thursday’s fatality) hasn’t been approved, but it’s in the plan.”

Eventually, the fencing will be placed along the entire railroad corridor adjacent to areas where the Union Pacific Railroad company allows the city to build a bike and pedestrian path, City Manager Katie Lichtig said.

“That path will extend from the northern city limits to the southern city limits, but its final alignment and location will depend upon Union Pacific’s approval,” Lichtig said.

Union Pacific owns the 100-foot wide rail corridor property that runs through the city. Any improvements on that property require its approval.

In late 2009, Union Pacific declined the city’s easement request to facilitate the extension of the current trail south to the Amtrak train station. The city has developed an alternative and is seeking approval of the new route, Lichtig said.

The city has been working with Union Pacific on the bike and pedestrian trail since the firm purchased the railroad corridor from Southern Pacific Railroad in the 1990s.

“The city will continue to make these discussions a high priority in order to complete these important safety improvements,” Lichtig said.

Union Pacific spokesman Aaron Hunt said, “We have a good relationship with the city and will continue to work together.”

“We at Union Pacific are saddened by this incident,” Hunt said. “Our hearts go out to the friends and family of the young man.”