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January 19, 2010

Councilman seeking rail safety solutions

Monday's Getting There column calling on the entire Middle River community to take a share  of responsibilty for preventing recurrences of the tragic  railroad track  accidents such as the one that caused the  death of 14-year-old Anna Marie Stickel was not universally persuasive.

Quite a few readers continue to hold the view that Anna, who was certainly on the Amtrak tracks unwisely and without authorization, was solely responsible for her death -- or as one writer put it "this girl got what she asked for."

Fortunately, the east side of Baltimore  County is represented by a councilman who sees a community interest in protecting young teenagers from their own immaturity. Baltimore County Council Chairman John Olszewski Sr. (right) sent me this  email signaling that he is interested in looking for solutions -- not merely pointing a finger at a dead girl and her grieving parents:

Good morning Michael, I just finished reading your article in the morning paper and I think you got it right. This issue isn't just a parental one but it is one that everyone involved should come together and come up with some collaborative ideas to bring a bright light onto the subject of dangerous train tracks.

I have asked the Superintendent and the Vice President of the Board to consider putting something in the yearly handbook that is distributed to students so that they and parents as well can be reminded of the dangers of using train tracks as a short cut to school. This will reenforce to students the dangers of railroad crossings and the horrific consequences associated with using these tracks as short cuts to schools.

These crossings are very dangerous areas that need to be clearly marked, patrolled for trespassers and continually talked about in different settings. They should be mentioned in assemblies in school, morning announcements,public television and community meetings where everyone in the community strives for a better quality of life in (their) neighborhoods as well as (a) safer place to live.

I will continue to try to do my part by giving the County Executive some ideas as to what we can do as public officials. Thank you for doing your part by keeping this story alive so that others may act in a responsible way so that other families don't have to face such a tragic situation.

Posted by Michael Dresser at 11:22 AM | | Comments (5)
Categories: Amtrak/intercity railroads


So this morning more mess on the MARC Penn line. I left on the 7AM departure from Penn Station. The earlier train (625AM) was disabled due to power/engine failure at Odenton. We had to stop, couple up to the that train and push it to Union Station. We made ALL stops twice (once for the first disabled train, once for our train) and were traveling at reduced speed. I arrived in Union Station at 906AM, more than 1 hour late.

MARC was supposed to be getting new engines last summer. Or so I thought. Where are they?

As you can see at the top of the page, Amtrak train kills MAN in Aberdeen. Not a child, a man. I have a 14 year old daughter who does not always make the best choices because of her age. As well as a 18 year old son. I am 41 and have not always made the best choices. I think its because we are human. Clearly the MAN in Aberdeen did not as well. I did not personally know Anna however I do know 14 year olds. I believe what Anna's mom has come up with in ANNA's Bridge not only would save our kids but clearly adults as well. If the bridge is not possible then there needs to be another option.Obviously this is an on going situation from one end of the tracks to the other. I am sure as Amtrak is aware of these crossing situations. The locations at Orems has been there ever since I can remember. I as well use to go to Kenwood High School and is quilty of walking these same tracks. I believe our neighbors would as well agree that at this location being so close to the schools in the area a bridge would certainly be needed. Like I said I crossed them tracks many times when I was 14, so its an on going problem now for 27 years. I am sure I was not the first. The community is ready to stand behind Anna's bridge or any resolution to the problem. I think alot of us would be willing to make donations in Anna;s name and have fund raisers to help with the cost. A solution is in need for this problem.

I think the reporter that stated Anna deserved this needs to be slapped. He/she obviously is not considerate of her family's feelings. She was a child, children tend to do things that are, at times, very careless. To say she deserved what happened to her was cruel and very inconsiderate. As far as the schools and the community emphasizing that people should not use the tracks as a means of a short cut...the schools and parents do tell their children repeatedly not to do this. You can tell a child everyday, amillion times a day, not to do something but everyone, including adults, always think it won't happen to them. Some people should think before opening their mouths. Anna did not "get what she asked for," she was just an unfortunate child who lost her life attempting to get to school. If you want to blame someone for her tragic accident, blame to idiots that built the schools so close to the tracks in that area.

I think there should be a nationwide law requiring trains to sound their horns within 2 or 3 miles from any school and the school zones clearly marked. We could call it "Anna's law" .

What do people mean when they say she got what she asked for, she was only 14, Anna was young and she didnt know any better, she's basically a child and for someone to say 'She got what she asked for' isnt fair. Trust me my firends that go to Kenwood and Eastern Tech know the risk of crossing those tracks, and thats why we never go alone, Anna was with her best friend taht morning when crossing those track, Anna heard her but ran the wrong way(in the directionof the train), we're teenage kids, most of hardly know the difference between right and wrong. So give us a break, will always be like this until the time comes and we mature into adults. The generations of the teenage life has been like this for years, so theres no piont in changing it now. And I would know, form a 15 year old girls advice and expience, take it. And you can write a story about that any day.

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About Michael Dresser
Michael Dresser has been an editor, reporter and columnist with The Sun longer than Baltimore's had a subway. He's covered retailing, telecommunications, state politics and wine. Since 2004, he's been The Sun's transportation writer. He lives in Ellicott City with his wife and travel companion, Cindy.

His Getting There column appears on Mondays. Mike's blog will be a forum for all who are interested in highways, transit and other transportation issues affecting Baltimore, Maryland and the region.

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