Letters for November 10, 2011

This is important

As a locomotive engineer who lives in the Reno area and runs trains through the Highway 95 crossing on a daily basis, I believe we need to increase safety at the Highway 95 rail crossing.

On Nov. 2, the National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB) concluded a series of observations and tests on U.S. Route 95 where the highway crosses the Union Pacific Railroad tracks. More than four months have now elapsed since the June 24 wreck in which a speeding tandem truck slammed into the side of Amtrak Train No. 5, the California Zephyr, killing both the truck’s driver and the train’s conductor, together with four passengers. Nine months earlier, on Sept. 14, 2010, another truck came perilously close to colliding with the same Amtrak train at the exact location, this time slamming into the guard rail and knocking the crossing warning superstructure into the train.

As a result of these incidents, train crews that handle train movements through this crossing on a regular basis anxiously anticipate the outcome of these tests and the recommendations that will be promulgated by the NTSB next year. But regardless of what NTSB discovers, their recommendations—if any—are just that, recommendations, and carry no force of law. However, we train crews—conductors and engineers—appeal to the citizens and to the lawmakers of Nevada to do the right thing by making provision for a safer crossing. While ultimately such high-speed at-grade crossings should be eliminated by grade separation, simple basic changes to the existing crossing would go a long way to ensure that what happened on June 24 will not be repeated.

We have no interest in blaming the state of Nevada, Amtrak, the Union Pacific Railroad, the trucking company nor its driver for what happened that day. This is a job for lawyers, judges and juries to decide. We simply want to go to work in a safe and secure environment, knowing that we—and our passengers—will return to our homes and families at the end of the journey.

Out on the highway in such rural areas, it is not uncommon, when approaching four-way stop signs, a flashing red light, or standard traffic light to encounter additional warnings together with a reduced speed limit in advance of such intersections. Common sense would dictate that the Highway 95 rail crossing in question would benefit greatly from such a simple safety device as flashing warning lights well in advance of the actual crossing. (Currently there are small, basic non-illuminated railroad crossing signs 730 feet from the crossing.) “Rumble strips” are another increasingly common means of alerting drowsy, inattentive or distracted motorists to possible danger ahead. Finally, a speed reduction through the crossing—it is currently posted for 70 mph!—would facilitate a much shorter stopping distance for traffic that is required to come to a stop when a train is approaching and/or occupying the crossing.

Let’s not wait for yet another tragedy of this nature to beset our community. Nevada, let’s do the right thing!

Name withheld

Flood money

Re “Saving graze” (Green, Nov. 3):

I was at the meeting on Oct 20 and spoke on flooding issues and against the approval of re-zoning some of the University of Nevada, Reno Main Station Farm.

Let’s be clear that the Wolf Pack Meats issue is separate from the re-zoning that is to be considered by City Council next month. Wolf Pack Meats property is on land that may be intended for the Truckee Meadows Flood Authority, or it may not. That has not been decided yet. The rezoning issue is for the 104 acres of land that are the front pastures on McCarran Boulevard from Cleanwater Way to the old driving range.

In the Truckee Meadows, there used to be more than 10,000 acres of marshes and flood plain. We are now down to about 1,600 acres of undeveloped land in the flood plain. If building is done on the UNR Main Station Farm then the flood waters that have been stored there in all the floods of the past, will have no place else to go but into surrounding residential and commercial properties. The UNR land in its entirety is just over 1,000 acres. We have had about 14 100-year floods since they started keeping records in 1862. We average a 100-year flood every 8-12 years. We are overdue. In the great 1955 flood, water was 6 feet deep on 6,000 acres of land. In 1997, just about 4,000 acres flooded. UNR Main Station Farm may not be enough land to keep everyone east of 395 from flooding, but the removal of any part of that storage will have a devastating effect on who floods in the future.

As for Wolf Pack Meats? At Planning Commission on Nov. 2, in an effort to be helpful and get them to deny a zoning change, a big deal was made that people would not want to have their offices or anything else, within 60 feet of a slaughter house. It is my opinion that now that Acting UNR President Johnson knows that it might be a hindrance on getting that 104 acres of land sold, he will find a reason to close it. Wolf Pack Meats can’t supply the college with a large cash infusion like the sale of that land, with its entitlements, could.

Kimberly Rhodemyre

Personnel service

Re “Break the bank” (Feature story, Nov. 3):

Interesting difference: profits vs. people. I had a discussion with a co-worker about ethics. I was wrong that ethics and morals have some crossover, at least in the corporate arena. One branch of “ethics” covers the ethical responsibilities of the board of directors at a corporation. They are mandated under this philosophy to maintain the net returns for the shareholders. The scary part of this is that collateral damage need not be considered if the prime directive is met, i.e. profits. So if the clients are upset, so be it. Service gets shabby, so be it. Now if we as clients leave as a result, then they may pay attention. But the reality is that they reduce wages and benefits to the workers, fire where they can and not replace openings when some leave. I guess they figure this can balance out the bottom line. They figure lack of service can be offset by increasing the fees. If you do business with these entities, you are supporting this system. I agree, time to go to businesses that will appreciate you as a client. My money is in a credit union for that reason. They will actually talk to me.

Ted Beecher

No respect

Re “The GOP’s angry birds” (Right to Your Head, Oct. 27):

I am curious: Does Sean Cary loathe your readers so much that he has to spin childish and weak comparisons to silly games? The community has many important challenges facing it, and this banal drivel is, quite frankly, infuriating. I do agree with his column in one respect. The GOP candidates and especially their debates are purely for entertainment. None of them have the tools to govern our country. The least he could do is insult the Occupy Movement or disproportionately scrutinize the current administration’s “socialist” policies. Make my blood boil for a good reason, not by insulting my intelligence.

Paul Stockton

Love is a strong word

Re “Break the bank” (Feature story, Nov. 3):

I too love my credit union. When I travel, my debit credit is always accepted at any credit union ATM fee-free. I would also strongly urge people to patronize other member-owned co-ops, like R.E.I., employee-owned businesses like Winco, and union retailers like Costco that treat their employees fairly. If Obamacare remains intact, we should also have an opportunity to buy health insurance from co-ops and other non-profit health insurance companies at substantially lower prices than “for profit” publicly owned companies.

Ron Schoenherr