Janine Ybanez/HIGHLANDER
Janine Ybanez/HIGHLANDER

The Perris Valley Line will begin running Metrolink test trains in October on upgraded tracks at the bottom of Big Springs Mountain, banning hikers from entering the Big Springs Road entrance to the “Big C” hiking trail and other popular hiking trails nearby.

This 24-mile commuter line began construction in October 2013 and will be completed this December. The newly upgraded tracks will run an estimated 240 Metrolink trains along these tracks each month and will increase efficiency of public transportation in the area.

In order to prevent accidents caused by heightened train traffic, local Riverside city and UCR officials are searching for ways to prevent pedestrians from crossing the tracks due to safety concerns raised with the increase in train traffic.

John Standiford, deputy executive director at the Riverside County Transportation Commission, explained that there have not been a significant number of injuries near the tracks and the Riverside County Transportation Commission intends to keep it that way. “There will be 12 additional trains traveling through (sic) the area when Metrolink service begins at the end of this year. The trains are quieter and faster than the freight trains that have normally traveled through the area.”

“Railroad tracks are not public spaces. They are designed solely for trains. Trains can’t swerve out of the way, and depending on their speed, need a considerable break time to stop. Not surprisingly, merely being on the tracks is considered trespassing,” Standiford clarified.

In 2014, 93 deaths and 52 injuries occurred in California due to pedestrian rail trespass. In order to avoid further accidents, Alisa Sramala, a city recreational trails coordinator, will be working with other Riverside county and city officials  to bring awareness to the national campaign called “Operation Lifesaver.” The campaign aims to educate the public on the importance of rail safety in the area.

Suggestions for effective methods of deterring hikers from the construction areas near the trail include social media posts, group outreach and posting fliers around the UCR campus and the Big Springs entrance to the trails.

While an alternative trail exists at the end of Blaine Street, navigating to the hiking trail will require a little more time. “I love hiking up there so it wouldn’t matter if I would have to take an alternate route,” elaborated Hugo Diaz, a fifth-year mathematics major in regards to having to change the traditional route from the Big Springs entrance.