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Delay highlights train frustration

A BNSF Railway train blocked the G Street crossing in Merced on Thursday morning, prompting angry calls to police dispatchers and the mayor.

Sgt. Cruz Jasso of the Merced Police Department said these kinds of occurrences aren't that uncommon and Mayor Ellie Wooten said BNSF train blockages are "getting frequent." She reported getting four calls about 10 a.m. about the north-south artery being tied up by trains. Police dispatchers reported a number of citizen calls.

Wooten then called BNSF officials and William Clark, chairman of the state Public Utilities Commission, to alert them about the situation. As part of the city's push to get a railroad underpass at G Street, statistics are kept on the number of train-caused traffic delays. An overpass or underpass is believed to cost more than $13 million with limited state funding available.

Lena Kent, BNSF spokeswoman, said Thursday night a check of train movements Thursday morning through Merced showed no train blocked crossings for more than 10 minutes. Between January 2005 and now, there have been 197 delays consuming 2,148 minutes at Merced crossings.

The city's spokesman, Mike Conway, said his return to work after lunch was delayed about 10 minutes by stopped trains. Wooten said those blocked by trains should record the time and engine numbers on the locomotives.

Associate Editor Doane Yawger can be reached at 209-385-2485 or