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SLO resident raises concerns over damaged fence next to train tracks and high school

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Posted at 5:25 PM, Apr 14, 2023

The train tracks running parallel to San Luis Obispo High School are not intended for pedestrian use; however, damage to a nearby fence has created an unintended entrance.

San Luis Obispo resident David DePaola is concerned by what he’s seeing and suspects students are using this route as a shortcut.

“Yeah, 20 of them kind of congregated and then they went through the hole in the fence and then they were going over the tracks with the Amtrak maybe sitting six feet behind them, stopped,” DePaola explained.

He is concerned that the next time someone is on the tracks they might not hear the train if they’re wearing earbuds, as many teens do, and the train might not be able to stop.

“I’m just concerned about someone getting hit like in Paso Robles,” DePaola said.

Just last year, a 13-year-old was hit and killed by a train in Paso Robles.

DePaola says he reported his concerns to the school’s security guard but so far, the fence remains open.

“I just felt like with the high school and Amtrak, between the two of them, that this wouldn’t be tolerated,” DePaola said.

The San Luis Coastal Unified School District said it has repaired the same spot several times but the kids continue to break it open.

Ryan Pinkerton, the district’s Assistant Superintendent of Business Services, says repairing the fence is an ongoing process. This is the first time he’s heard of the fence being torn open again and he plans to send someone to assess the situation.

Union Pacific Transportation Company, which operates the railroad, said in a statement, “Union Pacific Railroad built and donated the fence near San Luis Obispo High School as part of a lease agreement signed in 1968 by Union Pacific, the City of San Luis Obispo and the San Luis Coastal Unified School District. As part of that agreement, the city and the school district agreed to maintain the fence, with costs equally divided between the two.”

San Luis Obispo’s Public Works Director, Matt Horn, says the city was not aware of the hole in the fence. He encourages anyone who notices an issue in the community that needs to be addressed to report it on the city’s Ask SLO web page.

The City of San Luis Obispo has many railroad safety trails that allow people to safely travel next to the railroad property; however, the area by the damaged fence is not part of that project and there are no plans to include it at this time.