Agency to rule on new crossing

CITY HALL — A controversial $5.48-million plan to install a new at-grade railroad crossing near a proposed Flower Street extension to San Fernando Road will come to the Redevelopment Agency on Tuesday for final authorization one year before a state mandate to complete the work.

If approved, city officials will immediately seek bids on a project that also triggers safety improvements at all five existing at-grade rail crossings along San Fernando Road — a condition that came attached to the state Public Utilities Commission decision last year to authorize the plan to extend Flower Street from Air Way, over the tracks, to San Fernando Road.

“We've gone through this whole long process,” said Councilman Dave Weaver, who was mayor during the laborious — and often contentious — review process last year. “I'm just happy it's finally getting here.”

Residents continue to fight the extension, which city officials say will facilitate traffic flow to and from the expanding Walt Disney Co. campus east of the tracks, contending it is an unnecessary addition that would contribute more noise and traffic hazards to the area.

“We stand opposed to the project,” said Patrick Masihi, president of the Pelanconi Estates Homeowners Assn. “It is totally unnecessary.”

The association has been threatening legal action to stop the project since the City Council in May approved the railroad crossing improvement.

“We do have legal options, and we are exploring those legal options now,” Masihi said.

City officials are working under a March 15, 2009, deadline — also a condition of the state commission's project approval — to complete the rail crossing improvements. If the City Council, in its dual role as the Redevelopment Agency, approves the funding requests Tuesday, the city would secure the necessary contractors in time for construction to begin in August, according to city reports.

Also up for the agency's review on Tuesday are more than $650,000 worth of engineering contracts and project amendments for safety enhancements and upgrades for the five existing railway crossings — three of which are under shared jurisdiction with the city of Los Angeles.

Those include the crossings at Doran Street, Broadway and Chevy Chase Drive, with the at-grade crossings at Sonora and Grandview avenues to the north entirely under Glendale's jurisdiction.

The proposed Flower Street crossing would also be the city's responsibility, even though it falls under the regulatory purview of several regional and state agencies.

Among the safety features included in the project is a “refuge” area on southbound San Fernando Road to ensure trucks can move off the tracks, smooth joints to prevent trucks from getting “hung up” where the track meets the road and the elimination of a left-hand turn lane off eastbound Flower Street to protect pedestrians.

Other measures were implemented into the schematic design to discourage cut-through traffic in the Pelanconi neighborhood to the west, according to city reports.

City officials have hailed the safety improvements at the San Fernando Road at-grade crossings as state-of-the-art enhancements that will save lives.

“These are the best yet,” Weaver said.

But for nearby residents, the oncoming project is the latest in a series of developments in the area that they say continue to degrade the standard of living there.

Construction on a $32.7-million bridge that will extend from the Fairmont Avenue exit off the Ventura (134) Freeway, pass over San Fernando Road and come to rest at Flower Street is considered by many to be an unwelcome addition that will increase traffic noise. At the same time, the scope of a San Fernando Road corridor beautification project is significantly less than what was originally proposed several years ago — and then only after residents protested an even more scaled-back version.

“Our neighborhood has been hit in all directions,” Masihi said. “We're going to fight each .?.?. and make sure our quality of life is preserved.”

The Redevelopment Agency and City Council will take up the project at 2:30 p.m. Tuesday in City Council Chambers, 613 E. Broadway.


?JASON WELLS covers City Hall. He may be reached at (818) 637-3235 or by e-mail at jason.wells@latimes.com.

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