Wednesday, December 31, 2008

To Tree or not to Tree

The Statesman ran a story today about the removal of some trees on Capital Metro property near the railroad tracks. Good story.

The most important thing to remember here is that we’re talking about safety and federal regulations. Imagine if you were in your car approaching a major intersection and your view of a traffic light or stop sign is blocked by a tree. The consequences could be deadly. A train operator has to have a clear view of signals too.

We're required to clear any obstructions in these circumstances:

Line of sight to crossing signals: Train operators must have a clear view of all crossing signals and gates up to 20-seconds prior to reaching a crossing so the train has time to stop if the signals are malfunctioning. Drivers on the road must also have a clear view of all signals, signs and gates.

Line of sight to train signals: These are the signals that train operators look out for so they know whether they must stop or keep moving. Operators must have a clear view of all signals. Most signals on Capital Metro's line are placed within 12 to 16 feet from the center of the track and are about 12 feet tall. In areas with straight track, the line of sight could be as long as a half-mile from the signal itself.

Operating envelope clearance: There cannot be any obstructions within the operating envelope of a train. The size of the operating envelope varies depending on the curve of the track. The industry standard is 10-feet from the center of the track on each side and 22-feet high.

Failure to remove obstructions could result in a serious safety situation as well as violations from the Federal Railroad Administration.

MetroRail staff will continue to work closely with the landscape contractor to make sure that crews only remove what’s absolutely necessary to comply with the federal regs. And as the story mentioned, we’ll work with neighborhood groups to try to let them know in advance if there’s going to be any major trimming happening nearby.