Union Pacific made the right move, figuring out how to keep the California International Marathon on track and to promote rail safety at the same time.
The fate of the sold-out Dec. 6 race, which starts in Folsom and ends at the state Capitol, had been in some doubt after UP for the first time refused permission for a road race to cross its tracks in Sacramento, forcing a half-marathon in June to be canceled and a 5K to be detoured. Marathon organizers also were worried because Union Pacific didn’t give the all-clear last year for 6,000 runners to cross its tracks at L Street until a month before the race.
Late last week, the nation’s largest railroad announced that not only will it OK the route, it will sponsor the marathon. It will be the “official rail safety partner” and use the race to raise awareness among motorists and pedestrians of the dangers of railroad tracks.
That’s a worthy cause indeed, given that California records the most rail deaths of any state – 33 at railroad crossings and another 93 along railroad tracks last year alone. Organizers and Union Pacific should make rail safety a prominent part of the marathon’s marketing in the next three months.
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The railroad never fully explained why its policy became stricter, but it happened after four veterans were killed in 2012 when one of its trains struck their parade truck in Texas. That, however, was a completely different situation because parade organizers failed to notify the railroad of their route. Marathon organizers, on the other hand, have always communicated with UP.
We’ve been critical of Union Pacific and have urged it to be a good community partner. It’s good to see the railroad stepping up. Now it must bring the same cooperative attitude to reassuring communities that it is doing all it can to ensure the safety of oil trains rumbling through.