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LB cracks down on traffic safety at Blue Line

February 7, 2011 12:00:00 AM PST
Long Beach authorities are cracking down on drivers and pedestrians along the Metro Blue Line, underlining the importance of safety.

Police and sheriff's deputies fanned out during rush hour, aiming for stricter safety enforcement. During Monday's crackdown alone, 106 citations were issued with 43 going to distracted drivers.

Dozens of motorcycle officers patrolled near the Blue Line and cited pedestrians and motorists not paying attention to rail warning signs, flashing lights, crossing arms and train horns.

The massive traffic enforcement operation also focused on illegal left-turn violators and jaywalkers.

Fines for such citations average about $450.

Long Beach Police Chief Jim McDonnell said he hopes the fines serve as incentives for residents to comply with safety rules and spread the word to others to do the same.

"You've got to be very careful around the trains because so much is at stake," said McDonnell.

These trains cannot stop on a dime, each car on a Metro Blue Line train weighs 100,000 pounds. But officials say pedestrians and drivers still make unsafe decisions.

"Folks crossing the street past a red light, cars turning left in front of the train, [and] all types of things that they shouldn't be doing," said train operator Vance Howell.

The crackdown comes on the heels of many crashes involving the Metro Blue Line, and officials say distracted drivers and pedestrians contribute to those accidents, putting themselves and rail passengers at risk.

In January, a bicyclist was killed trying to cross the tracks.

There have been seven deaths involving Metro trains since 1990. Officials say that's seven too many.

"To take on one of these trains and they're full of passengers, you put everybody at risk," said McDonnell.