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$6,000 Fine for Train Track Trespassing

It's one of those laws that you might not know about, but beware: If you get caught taking a short cut on foot across a set of railroad tracks, you could face a costly ticket.

We received the following letter Monday by email from Livermore resident Laura Rensink, who says she's fighting a railroad trespassing citation she received June 7 from Union Pacific Railroad at Ventura Avenue. Rensink contends this popular footpath isn't adequately signed by the railroad as being illegal.

I have a story that needs printing. I was walking across the railroad tracks (on June 7) and was cited by a Union Pacific Police Officer as trespassing, even though I took less than 2 seconds to cross the tracks. I watched in disbelief when he wrote me a ticket and then told me I had a mandatory court date.

Today I went to court and sat through running red lights and speeding citations. Most fines were in the $150 to $600 range. I was near the end since it was alphabetical, and imagine my utmost surprise at being told the fine was over $6,000!!!! The judge would not dismiss the case or reduce the fine. She said I either had to pay it or plead "not guilty" and come back for a trial.

This is ridiculous! I had no idea that walking across the tracks was illegal. And then for the fee to be so outrageous has made me want to do something. I was going to pay the fine, thinking it was a few hundred dollars. But I can't afford $6,000. We need to have better signage and in Spanish, since the path I used is heavily used. I feel the people of Livermore need to be warned.

The other thing that has my blood boiling is that the officer said he was writing tickets because it was International Train Safety Day. I never heard of such a day, and when I Googled it and looked on Livermore Patch, no news site was reporting it. And he said up the tracks in a train were the mayor and media, watching gleefully as he handed out tickets. This is absurd. This is not the way to make people aware of a "Safety Day," and definitely not the American Way to punish the few to teach the many.

Editor's note: The Union Pacific officer likely was referring to International Level Crossing Awareness Day, which last year also took place on June 7.

It's unclear why the fine, which is a misdemeanor, is $6,000. In a 2011 article about train track citations published by the Cal Poly student newspaper, a Union Pacific representative said the trespassing fine was usually $100 to $200 but could be as high as $2,000. This seems to match language from the penal code covering train track trespassing (which is actually listed as a Health and Safety code violation). 

We have requested further details from Union Pacific and will update this story when we hear more.

Becky August 30, 2012 at 05:09 PM
If you do write to UP, you should send cc's to the local DA, the judge who fined you, the officer, the mayor of Livermore, and anyone else you can think of, and then note at the bottom of the letters that all those people are also hearing from you.
Kathy Montgomery August 30, 2012 at 05:13 PM
Yes, wise to have hired an attorney; you were prepared. $1,500 is a far cry from the $6,000 fine. That is good news. Take care.
BP August 30, 2012 at 06:39 PM
Young is on leave with pancreatic cancer. I was thinking more of a small claim against UP with utube coverage with the invitees being the 6 California railroad cops, city,county, state dot, Operation Lifesaverless, Federal Railbought Association, rail unions, STB, NTSB, the runs running trains too fast with no brakes or steering through there, and the FENCE INSTALLATION companies.
Megan August 31, 2012 at 01:15 AM
Contact "Consumer Watch" on KPIX. It's worth a try to get this out and in the open.
Laura August 31, 2012 at 03:35 AM
Awww! That is the nicest gesture ever! But I would feel uncomfortable having your assistance. Wow! You are a very kind person. Thank you!!

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