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— But drivers who are first in line at the intersection may only detect the blinking red lights to their left and right out of the corners of their eyes, if they detect them at all. Because they are so close to the tracks, the drivers may not see the crossing bar starting to come down either. Their focus, as they look straight ahead, is likely to be on the city's traffic signal across Lemon Grove Avenue. In that case, the first thing they see will be the green light that comes on as the trolley approaches the station.

As a result of her ticket, Arcadi signed up for La Mesa Traffic School. She says her instructor, Ken Seguine, asked her to tell her story to the class. He then commented, according to Arcadi, on how the short-duration green lights at the intersections of automobile traffic with trolley tracks pose a great danger to motorists. Over the phone, however, Seguine acknowledges that the Lemon Grove station crossing does have a warning sign next to its right-hand lane that should stop drivers from going across the tracks, even when the light turns green across the street. The green light poses a greater danger for people in the middle- or left-turn lanes, Seguine says.

Seguine once owned the La Mesa Traffic School. The school's current owner, Buck Matoushek, has a different perspective on the green lights at trolley intersections. "People who get stranded on the tracks might end up dead if it weren't for those green lights," he says. "If drivers at the intersections are so close to the tracks that they can't see the trolley's flashing red lights or its crossing bars, then they are too close."

Matoushek thinks that though the first drivers in line at the tracks see a green light ahead that seems to tell them to go, the ringing bell, the crossing bar, and the flashing red lights clearly tell them not to go. Although drivers get a mixed message, "It's three against one," concludes Matoushek.

To verify her recollections, Arcadi took a camera to the same position she was in right before being ticketed and took a picture through her windshield at the moment the green light came on. The camera did not detect the crossing bar coming down in front of her car. Arcadi did hear the bell on this subsequent visit, but she's sure that it had not started ringing before she drove the few feet that got her the $350 ticket on April 1. She remains convinced that inconsistencies plague Broadway Avenue's intersection with the trolley. Ellen Arcadi plans to appeal the decision in her case.

Kathy Feilen, a traffic engineer with the city of La Mesa, says she knows of no serious accidents that the computerized trolley intersection system has caused. And in her city, where La Mesa Boulevard crosses both the trolley tracks and Spring Street, there is a peculiarity that looks especially dangerous. A driver approaching from the southwest on La Mesa Boulevard has the option of going over the trolley tracks and waiting in a space beyond them for a chance to cross Spring. But the space is so small that the rear end of a vehicle can stick out over the trolley's path. The green light that allows such a car to get out of the trolley's way is crucial.

Feilen admits that the La Mesa Avenue intersection is not ideal. It resulted, she says, from the city of La Mesa's negotiations with the trolley system at the time the line first came through. "Santee did better at negotiating by the time the trolley was built that far out," Feilen says. "They got the trolley to stop for traffic at the last road before coming to a dead end."

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