The California Public Utilities Commission has approved the use of experimental four-quadrant railroad crossing gates after installation of the device at a Willowbrook intersection eliminated collisions between cars and the Metro Blue Line trains.
The MTA's Blue Line, which runs between Los Angeles and Long Beach, has the worst safety record of any light rail line in the state, with 53 deaths in the last 10 years caused by collisions between cars and trains.
In many of those cases, motorists were killed after driving around crossing gates and trying to run through the intersection, only to be hit by oncoming trains.
To make it much more difficult for drivers to get around crossing gates, the Metropolitan Transportation Authority replaced the traditional two gates with four gates that cover all four corners or quadrants of the intersection at 124th Street in Willowbrook. The location was chosen for the test because three people had been killed and at least five serious accidents had occurred at that site.
MTA officials said there have been no accidents at the crossing since installation of the four-quadrant gates in October 1998.
In approving the technology, the PUC said the four-quadrant gates system can be installed, with its review and approval, at railroad crossings in California.
"The PUC has approved the four quad gate concept as a means to enhance safety at those grade crossings that have a history of go-arounds," said Paul Lennon, MTA's managing director of safety and security. "They are not making them mandatory. For the first time they have recognized their value and included them as an additional measure to ensure the safety of a rail transit system or a railroad."
Lennon said the MTA plans to spend $1.6 million over the next five years to install the four-quad gates at 10 more crossings on the Blue Line where accidents have occurred. He said the system should deter motorists who try to get around traditional gates.
The technology also includes a sensor buried beneath the crossing to allow the exit arm to rise if a vehicle becomes trapped between gates.
Lennon said the agency will consider using the four-quad system at a couple of crossings on the light rail line to be built between downtown Los Angeles and Pasadena.
The Union Pacific Railroad also has expressed interest in installing four-quad gates at locations across the state, according to the PUC.