L.A. businesses oppose closing at-grade rail crossing

GLENDALE — Los Angeles business owners on Thursday spoke out against possibly closing the at-grade railroad crossing at Doran Street and San Fernando Road, arguing it would choke off customer access and create a whole new set of safety concerns.

Metrolink and Glendale officials renewed longstanding calls for closing the crossing near the Los Angeles-Glendale border last year after an 86-year-old pedestrian was struck and killed by a train in November.

But during a public hearing at Glendale City Hall on Thursday, nearly a dozen representatives from nearby businesses located in the Los Angeles portion of the San Fernando corridor said the closure would dramatically affect their businesses by making them difficult to access.

Many of them hailed from the industrial park, where the only accessible entrance is on Doran and Brazil streets.

“It would greatly impact our ability to do business in the area,” said Glenn Bossin, of Ferguson Industries, a wholesale plumbing company.

The California Public Utilities Commission hosted the hearing to gather input on the proposed closure, which was proposed by its Consumer Protection and Safety Division after engineers deemed the crossing “redundant and unsafe.”

The Glendale City Council approved an at-grade railroad crossing in 2008 for an extension of Flower Street to San Fernando Road for around the same time that the Doran Street crossing was scheduled to close, but it remained open.

State engineers have said the Doran crossing is made hazardous by a constricted intersection, the high speed and frequency of passenger and freight trains and the proximity of a propane and industrial gas loading and storage facility.

“It’s our view that the crossing exposes the public to unnecessary hazards,” said Lawrence Michael, a staff engineer with the Consumer Protection and Safety Division.

He added that staff engineers recommend upgrading the crossing at Broadway/Brazil Street to make up for the Doran closure.

But business owners argued that the Brazil Street crossing is even more dangerous for the countless trucks that have to make dozens of daily trips across the railroad tracks.

“We run trucks in and out of the crossing at Doran because Broadway/Brazil is too dangerous,” said Dave Ollis, of National Ready Mix Concrete. “If the goal is safety, we believe this is the wrong thing to do.”

While the nearby Pelanconi Estates Homeowners Assn. has called for the closing, no residents spoke at the first hearing Thursday afternoon, although another was scheduled for the evening.

Business owners encouraged state officials to consider improving the Doran Street crossing instead of closing it.

“The crossing is our lifeline,” said Tim Orello, of Furniture Town Plus. “That is how people get to us.”

The Public Utilities Commission is not expected to issue a final decision is not expected until early next year.

Administrative Law Judge Linda Rochester, who oversaw the hearing, said the public input would be taken into account during the commission’s formal proceedings.

“They do carry weight with the commission because it is the only way we hear what the public has to say,” she said.

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