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Panel Delays Action on Street-Level Rail Crossings

TIMES URBAN AFFAIRS WRITER

The region’s top rail policy-making body was forced to postpone action Wednesday on a plan to eliminate street-level train crossings between Los Angeles and San Diego for lack of a quorum. It was the Orange County delegation that failed to show--at a meeting held at the Santa Ana train station.

Unable to pass resolutions, the three members of the Los Angeles-San Diego Rail Corridor Agency who did attend agreed to let their executive director, Sharon Greene, write letters in support of legislation to fund grade separations at all 92 of the street crossings along the 128-mile rail line.

The project, aimed both at increasing average train speeds and improving safety, is expected to cost more than $736 million over a 10- to 20-year period.

Former state Sen. James Mills of San Diego, the agency’s chairman, said Greene could write letters to lobbyists and other government officials seeking money for the project based on previous, longstanding board statements generally favoring grade separations.

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Mills, North San Diego County Transit Development Board Chairman Ann Kulchin and Los Angeles County Transportation Commissioner Jacki Bacharach also received reports on several rail safety initiatives to be undertaken in the next few weeks in the wake of recent rail-related fatalities.

Besides additional warning signs and a publicity campaign on train safety, the agency may seek legislation to increase penalties for trespassing on railroad property. Also under review is a so-called “Trooper on the Train” program in which a law enforcement official rides in the cab, spots trespassers and reports their location to police.

Greene displayed samples of posters used elsewhere, one of which referred to “close encounters of the worst kind.” She also said that fast-food franchises may be asked to hand out train safety brochures for a week and use related materials as tray-liners.

According to Greene, Anaheim Councilman Irv Pickler, an alternate, was scheduled to sit in for Orange County Transportation Commission Chairman Dana W. Reed and Tustin Mayor Richard B. Edgar at Wednesday’s meeting because Reed and Edgar had business meetings in Los Angeles.

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“This is very annoying,” Kulchin said. “We have to take steps to make sure it doesn’t happen again.”

Pickler said he was under court order from an appellate justice to attend a settlement conference involving city litigation that went overtime.

“I’m really sorry,” he said. “I didn’t even know I was being counted on for a quorum.”


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