Reader Robert Zuniga recently saw a fire engine, with lights and siren, forced to stop on 29th Street in midtown for a half-minute while two light-rail trains crossed the street.
He asks: Is that what we want, emergency vehicles blocked from providing quick aid to residents in trouble?
No, definitely not, local officials say.
Trains have been trundling through the urban area for eons, crossing streets, forcing commuters and even emergency vehicles to stop and wait. Police and fire crews say they don't like it, but they have learned to compensate for it.
Regional fire dispatchers say they get radio reports about five times a month from engines or firetrucks that are being delayed by passing trains. Spokeswoman Michelle Eidam of the Sacramento Metropolitan Fire District says firefighters usually wait like everybody else for Regional Transit light-rail trains to pass or almost like everybody else.
They can jump ahead of the other cars in line if there is room, then go through first when the gates go back up.
"It's a minimal problem," is how Eidam described the light-rail issue.
If a major incident is going to require a lot of emergency vehicles to cross tracks, Eidam said, the Fire Department can ask RT to halt service for a while to allow back-and-forth emergency movement.
Freight trains are far less frequent, but they pose more of a problem. Some trains have 80 cars and can cause five-minute-plus delays.
In those cases, fire officials say, the fire apparatus driver will report the delay, and dispatchers will send another engine company from the other side of the tracks to the call.
Union Pacific has an emergency number for police and fire to call to alert them of issues at or near tracks.
Trains have federal right of way when crossing streets here and elsewhere.
Sacramento officials have said in the past they'd like Union Pacific to reroute trains around the metro area. But the rail company isn't inclined to spend the money to do that.
City officials have talked of tunneling some streets under the tracks, but that's expensive and would disrupt neighborhoods.
Sacramento Regional Transit and Sacramento County have, however, created grade separations at several major streets over the years, including Power Inn Road and more recently Watt Avenue just south of Folsom Boulevard, to eliminate commute congestion caused by train crossings.
A planned light-rail line south to Cosumnes River College includes a bridge steering it over CRC Boulevard at Bruceville Road.
Trains aren't the only impediment to emergency vehicles. "You can say the same about rush-hour traffic," Sacramento police spokesman Officer Doug Morse said.