One of Burbank's most infamous railroad crossings may have just become safer for those traveling on a train — or driving or walking through the intersection.
Officials from Burbank, the Los Angeles County Metropolitan Transportation Authority, also known as Metro, Caltrans and Metrolink gathered near the intersection of Buena Vista Street and San Fernando Boulevard to commemorate the completion of elevated tracks that are used by Metro, Amtrak and freight trains.
The new tracks are part of a $355-million I-5 North Improvement/Empire Project by Caltrans and Metro. It cost the two agencies $40 million to elevate the railway at Buena Vista.
The railroad tracks now gradually rise to the height of the Golden State (5) Freeway, which is just several feet away, and sends trains over Buena Vista. Pedestrians and vehicles can now make their way across San Fernando without having to worry about locomotives.
"People will no longer have to wait for the train to pass by, so now it's safer and saves more time," said Maher Subeh, a Metro project manager for the I-5 North Improvement/Empire Project.
For nearly four decades, the at-grade railroad crossing at Buena Vista has been known to be among the most dangerous train tracks for motorists to cross and has resulted in four fatalities.
In September 2014, 79-year-old Burbank resident Fawaz Khalil died after he reportedly drove through the railroad-crossing arms and was struck by a train.
In January 2006, Maureen Osborn, 76, of Glendale, was killed after she turned her vehicle in front of a Metrolink train.
Exactly three years before that fatality, 63-year-old Van Nuys resident Jacek "Jack" Wysocki and a Metrolink train passenger died after Wysocki rolled his truck in front of a train. Two train cars derailed and flipped, injuring 20 other riders.
"From now on, there's not going to be any more accidents at this intersection," said Jose Ubaldo, a Metro spokesman.
In addition to providing a better sense of safety for motorists and train passengers, elevating the railway also creates a quieter environment. Because there is no longer an at-grade railway crossing, train conductors do not have to sound their horn as they approach the crossing, Subeh said.
That is something Glendale Councilman Ara Najarian would like to see more of in his city. He said Glendale recently implemented a quiet zone along San Fernando Road at the crossings at Flower Street, Grandview Avenue and Sonora Avenue.
Najarian, who serves on Metro's board of directors, said he would also like to see something done to the at-grade crossing at Doran Street, which he said is just as dangerous as the crossing at Buena Vista.
For several years, there have been talks about possibly closing the railroad crossing at Doran and building bridges to connect Doran to Zoo Drive in Griffith Park. Another option would be to close the crossing at Doran and construct an elevated crossing at Salem and Sperry streets.
"We just have to fix these [railroad crossings], so we don't have any unnecessary accidents," Najarian said.