Ventura County

$1.5 Million Federal Grant for Oxnard Bridge Will Make Railroads Safer, Officials Say

The Rice Avenue bridge will transport vehicles and pedestrians over the train tracks on East 5th Street, where a fatal collision derailed a train last year

The Federal Railroad Administration announced on Tuesday a $1.5 million grant that would help fund a bridge over the railroad tracks on South Rice Avenue in Oxnard, where a fatal collision with a car led to a Metrolink train's derailment last year.

The bridge over the train tracks on East Fifth Street will reportedly have six lanes, including a sidewalk and a bike lane, in an effort to prevent future accidents from occurring as cars cross the railroad tracks, officials said.

"We often say, at the Federal Railroad Administration, that the safest railroad crossing is the one that doesn't exist at all," said Sarah Feinberg, head of the Federal Railroad Administration, part of the US Department of Transportation. "This is a problem that's been with this country for a really long time. Since roads and railroads had to intersect, you can imagine this has been a problem in the country."

This announcement comes a year after an abandoned truck on the train tracks derailed a Metrolink train in Oxnard on Feb. 24, 2015, in an accident that killed one and injured 33 people.

Jose Alejandro Sanchez-Ramirez, 55, of Arizona, was charged with vehicular manslaughter in the derailment.

His attorney said that he wasn't from area, that it was an accident and he tried to summon help.

He turned on to the railroad tracks instead of the intersection at East Fifth Street, investigators said.

He reportedly continued driving partially on the railroad tracks until the car got stuck. National Transportation Safety Board officials said that the driver abandoned his truck with the hazard lights flashing.

Some Oxnard residents who've complained about the dangers of that crossing, welcome the bridge.

Claudia Paredes, who said she often doesn't hear the crossing arm bells when she's listening to the radio, said it will prevent crashes.

The cost for the bridge is $45 million and officials hope a half-cent sales tax on the November ballot would help make up the total cost, according to the Ventura County Star.

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