Rail crossing upgrades on the way

Drivers can expect to see new and improved traffic signals, wider roads and better lighting at two Glendale railroad crossings by next year as part of a $9.8-million project that could help pave the way to a quieter train corridor.

City officials on Wednesday briefed residents who live near the San Fernando Road corridor on the construction plans, which many hope could eventually lead to designating the corridor a “quiet zone” — a section of railway where trains aren’t required to use their horns.

Pelanconi Estates residents have been especially vocal in their disdain for the train horns. Engineers are required to sound their horns before each rail crossing, but quiet-zone status can be earned with certain safety improvements, including upgraded signals and impassible vehicle gates, or by eliminating crossings altogether.

Jano Baghdanian, the city’s traffic and transportation administrator, told residents at the meeting Wednesday night that the planned upgrades to the rail crossings at Grandview and Sonora avenues and other street improvements could help move the area closer to achieving quiet-zone status.

“Our No. 1 goal is to enhance safety. By that we will qualify for quiet-zone consideration,” he said.

Changes will include:

Widening Grandview Avenue between San Fernando Road and Air Way.

Installing a traffic signal at the Grandview Avenue and Air Way intersection.

Eliminating 20 street parking spaces in the area.

Modifying signing and striping on Sonora Avenue.

Restricting left turns at some driveways east of the railroad tracks at the Sonora Avenue crossing.

Even with the planned changes to Grandview and Sonora avenues, safety enhancements would have to be installed at three other crossings to qualify for quiet-zone status, Baghdanian said.

Glendale is working first on railroad crossings in the city’s jurisdiction, leaving the crossings that span multiple agencies, including the city of Los Angeles, as the final projects since they take more effort to coordinate.

The multi-agency crossings include Doran Street, Broadway Avenue/Brazil Street and Chevy Chase Drive.

“The ones we control in our jurisdiction, we take care of first,” said Public Works Director Steve Zurn.

Construction on the Grandview and Sonora crossings is expected to run from 7 a.m. to 7 p.m. on weekdays from February through December 2012, and at least one lane in each direction on San Fernando Road will remain open.

Some at the sparsely attended meeting complained that although the official start time is 7 a.m., when construction crews worked on a crossing at Flower Street in the past, noise would begin as early as 5 a.m.

Baghdanian said transportation officials would try to prevent construction crews from arriving before 7 a.m.; however, Metrolink must complete some work as well and the city can’t control the agency’s hours.

Some residents also complained that they weren’t given enough advance notice of the meeting, limiting the amount of neighborhood feedback on the plans.

“It’s not fair,” Yamila Estrada said.

Several said they liked the improvements, adding that many of their neighbors couldn’t make the meeting because they weren’t notified early enough. Some of the 10 attendees said they received a notice of the meeting about five days beforehand.

Baghdanian said traffic engineers would hold another meeting and send notices out several weeks in advance.

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