SEPTA, Univ. urge students to use caution

Maggie Nepomuceno

Construction on the fencing between the rails at Villanova’s R5 SEPTA station has raised concerns regarding the safety of students crossing the tracks.The inner two rails, which the Amtrak trains run on, are currently being replaced. Although there is construction, the trains are still running on these rails, and students should be careful of oncoming traffic.The fence, which usually bars pedestrians from crossing the tracks, needed to be taken down for construction purposes. SEPTA placed the frame for the new fence this week, but without the complete fence, the University is still concerned that students will try to cross.Although SEPTA posted caution signs, and Rev. Stack, O.S.A, sent an alert to the University, many students are still seen crossing the tracks.Robert Morro, executive director for facilities management expressed his concerns about the students’ safety and has been communicating with Public Safety, Amtrak and SEPTA to see what can be done to ensure the well- being of the students. Morro, whose office is on the other side of the tracks, became concerned when he witnessed potential hazards at the tracks two weeks ago.”About twelve kids walked across the track,” Morro said. “Some of them were on their cell phones not paying attention. It’s very dangerous.”He advises students not to walk across the tracks and to be aware of the risks involved. Students should take the extra time to use the tunnel or to cross the bridge on Route 320.Jack Bazela and Joe Cefaratti, two SEPTA workers working on the tracks, said that they witnessed one student barely miss getting hit by a train while talking on a cell phone. If pedestrians need to cross the railroad tracks, they should only use designated crossings, such as overpasses, underpasses, or railroad grade crossings. It is illegal to walk across railroad tracks unless a marked crossing is present. Railroad tracks are privately owned. Since Amtrak and SEPTA own the tracks and the station, they have the authorization to issue a $60 fine for trespassing. SEPTA says that it is understaffed and cannot always have someone to issue tickets to people committing railroad-crossing violations. It is up to the students to recognize the warning signs and not to take any unnecessary risks.Statistics from earlier this year show that in 2004, the death rate from railroad crossing increased by 11 percent. Last year, nearly 3,000 accidents occurred at rail crossings (an average of one every three hours) and 396 people died. Pedestrian crossing accidents are usually a result of inattentiveness. Pedestrians might not see or hear a train approaching because they are wearing headphones or are talking on their cell phones. Trains cannot stop quickly. A 150-car freight train traveling 50 mph takes 1.5 miles to stop. An eight-car passenger train traveling 79 mph takes 1 1/7 miles to stop. By the time a conductor notices a pedestrian, it is already too late to stop the train.