TODAY

– April 17, 2014

Amtrak: Crossing gate down in Calif. train crash

Three Amtrak cars derailed south of Hanford on Oct. 1 after colliding with a big rig (AP Photo)Three Amtrak cars derailed south of Hanford on Oct. 1 after colliding with a big rig (AP Photo)(AP) — The crossing gate was down, lights were flashing and bells were ringing when a big rig crashed into a passing Amtrak passenger train on Monday afternoon, an Amtrak official said.

 

Investigators probing the cause of the crash south of the farming community of Hanford plan to look at the condition of the big rig's driver — identified Tuesday as Macario Medina, 32, of McFarland — and of the truck.

Amtrak spokeswoman Vernae Graham said 39 people were injured in the crash.

Authorities have described the injuries as mostly bumps and bruises although Graham said at least one person suffered a broken leg.

"The whole crew was shaken up, obviously, so what we do is give them immediate relief from duty if they need it and have counselors check in with them within a 24-hour period," she said Tuesday.

Investigators will first try to determine Medina's state and then look at the vehicle, said California Highway Patrol spokesman Jerry Pierce. Medina went through the warning arms and hit the train before his truck overturned, according to the CHP.

Pierce said Tuesday morning that he had not yet interviewed Medina, who suffered moderate injuries.

The impact from the truck pushed two of the train's four cars and its locomotive off the tracks.

The train traveled about 600 feet (180 meters) after the collision before hitting a switchback and derailing, the CHP has said.

Officials have not determined how fast the train or the truck were going, but the average speed for Amtrak through the area is 70 mph to 80 mph, while the speed limit on the roadway where the truck was travelling is 55 mph, according to the CHP.

After the crash, metal pieces from the truck could be seen inside the train, which was covered by cotton seeds. Several pieces of luggage were also scattered around the area.

The train was on its way from Oakland to Bakersfield. It was being pushed by the locomotive and was struck between the locomotive and the last car, Graham said.

The track, meanwhile, reopened Tuesday morning after crews replaced hundreds of feet of damaged track and some signal equipment, BNSF Railway spokeswoman Lena Kent said. BNSF owns the line.

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Written on 04/17/2014, 2:08 pm by MIKE STOBBE, AP Medical Writer
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Written on 04/17/2014, 2:03 pm by Business Journal staff
Homes sales increased throughout the San Joaquin Valley in March although activity was still sluggish compared to last year. According to a new report from the California Association of Realtors, home sales increased 16.6 percent in Fresno County during the month but dropped 19.1 percent year-over-year. The price of a median home in Fresno County stood at $202,100 in March, up 10.9 percent from $182,270 the prior month and 25.9 percent from $160,510 a year ago. Sales in Tulare County climbed 30.5 percent in the month but fell 15.1 percent compared to last year. The county's median home price inched up 1.3 percent to $165,380 over January's $163,330. That's also up 20.2 percent over $137,560 a year ago. Kings County made even more progress. Sales grew 38.6 percent in March but slipped 4.8 percent from last year. The median home price in the county stood at $179,230 in the month, down 1.8 percent from $182,500 in February but up 22.8 percent from $146,000 a year ago. Madera County saw its sales drop by 18.5 percent in March and 21.4 percent from last year. However, home prices in the county picked up in the month to $190,000, up 28.8 percent from February's median price of $147,500 and 39.7 percent from $136,000 in March 2013. Fresno County's unsold inventory index, or number of months to deplete the supply of homes at the current sales rate, stood at 5.2 months in March, down from 5.8 months in February but up from 3.8 months a year ago. Tulare County's index dropped to 4.7 months compared to 5.9 months in February but picked up from 3.2 months in March 2013. Kings County's inventory stood at 3.2 months in March, down from 4.4 months in February but a little better than 2.7 months a year ago, while Madera County home supply improved from 3.9 months in February and 3.5 months a year ago to 4.3 months in March. Statewide, home sales totaled 367,000 units in March, up 1.4 percent from 361,790 in February but down 12.3 percent from 418,310 a year ago. "While the demand for housing was up from February, the market is taking a hit from lower housing affordability compared to a year ago, which led to a decline in home sales from last year," said C.A.R. President Kevin Brown. "Moreover, concerns over tighter lending standards and increased borrowing costs are also contributing factors to the sluggish market as they both negatively impact the bottom line of home buyers who obtain financing through mortgages."
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Written on 04/17/2014, 1:50 pm by 
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Written on 04/17/2014, 1:48 pm by Business Journal staff
Central Valley Community Bank increased its earnings by nearly 50 percent in the first quarter over the same period last year. The Fresno-based bank reported revenues of $2.62 million, or 24 cent per share, for the three months ended March 31. That's up 46.7 percent compared to $1.78 million, or 18 cents per share, for the first quarter of 2013. The bank attributed much of the increase to a higher net interest income in 2014 due to the collection of non accrual loans totaling $1.62 million, which resulted in a recovery of interest income of $721,000. Net interest income before the provision for credit losses during the first quarter of the year was $10.09 million compared to $6.85 million the year before. The bank also increased its assets from $870.42 million in the first quarter of 2013 to $1.13 billion in the latest quarter. Non-performing assets decreased 35.93 percent over the year to $4.98 million. Deposits increased 33.89 percent from $735.73 million to $985.05 million, while loans were up 31.6 percent from $390.67 million to $514.38 million. Shareholders' equity increased by 5.1 percent since December to $6.13 million President and CEO Dan Doyle said asset quality ratios have continued to improve with the reductions in non-performing loans and the overall increase in total loans from the bank's recent acquisition of Visalia Community Bank last July. He added, however, that the bank continues to feel the impact of low loan demand and a low interest rate environment driven by the Federal Reserve's influence on the control of interest rates, as well as strong competition for loans throughout the San Joaquin Valley. "The current concern for the Central Valley's food and agriculture-related industry is the reduced supply of and demand for affordable water," said Doyle, who retires at the end of the year to be replaced by veteran banker James Ford. "This is the third year with below-average snow and rainfall, which is negatively affecting agribusiness as a whole, including those employed directly or indirectly in the service business supporting this critical industry in our region."Established in 1979, Central Valley Community Bank has 21 full-service branches from Sacramento to Visalia. The bank also operates commercial real estate lending, SBA lending and agribusiness lending departments.
Written on 04/17/2014, 1:45 pm by Business Journal staff
The Fresno metropolitan area had some of the highest home price and inventory increases in the country, according to a report by Realtor.com. The National Housing Trend Report for March 2014 showed the median list price of a home increased 5.3 percent in March over the year before, going from $189,800 to $199,000. Out of 146 metros evaluated in the report, the Fresno metro had the eighth highest increase in the country. Prices increased 17.4 percent in the area over the last year from a median price of $195,800 to $229,900. That's behind metros like Houston growing 18.5 percent, Denver at 20.1 percent and No. 1 Stockton-Lodi at 38.9 percent. Housing inventory also grew over the year before, rising 9.5 percent nationwide to 1,841,844 homes listed on Realtor.com. Going from 1,946 homes listed on the website in March 2013, the Fresno area has since climbed to 3,049 listings in the latest month. That's an increase of 56.7 percent, just sixth behind Nashville, Tenn. (56.8 percent), Orlando, Fla. (56.8 percent), Bakersfield (57.3 percent), Orange County (63.5 percent) and Stockton-Lodi (68.6 percent). The median age of inventory increased 22.9 percent across the country over the last year with homes now 102 days on the market on average. In the Fresno metro, the increase in inventory meant homes spent an average of 61 days on the market in March. That's up 45.2 percent from a year ago, 12th behind areas like Springfield, Ill. increasing by 57.3 percent, Stockton-Lodi by 60 percent, Oakland, Calif. by 80 percent and Rochester, N.Y. growing the most by 98.4 percent. According to Realtor.com, a real estate listing service offered by Move, Inc., home sales activity remains sluggish but added inventory may mean more affordable prices in many markets for the first-time and move-up homebuyers alike. "Bidding wars in many markets last year frequently elevated offer prices beyond the reach of first-time buyers who could scarcely save for the down payment," said Steve Berkowitz, CEO of Move, in a release. "While inventory is still low, the continuing annual lift in the number of homes on the market that we've seen over the first months of 2014 is an indicator that buying conditions this year may be notable improved from the frenzied pace of last spring."

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