Doran Street crossing headed for upgrade

Glendale and Los Angeles County transportation officials have agreed to limit one of Metrolink's most dangerous railroad crossings to one-way traffic, a step meant to increase safety there. But the move won't, by itself, be enough to prevent train engineers from sounding their horns in the San Fernando Corridor.

Years in the making, the proposal to limit the Doran Street crossing to westbound traffic across the Los Angeles border must still go through several layers of approval before becoming reality.

It also may be a temporary fix, with a bridge estimated to cost $35 million expected to take its place. The bridge is the safest option if the crossing remains open, said Glendale Transportation and Safety Administrator Jano Baghdanian.

Glendale officials had hoped to completely shut the crossing, adjacent to the Ventura (134) Freeway overpass, as it upgraded four others in the corridor, but the crossing is one of the only access points to several industrial buildings along the city's border.

For reasons of safety, Glendale and Los Angeles fire officials disagreed with closing it, so transportation officials hatched the current deal, Baghdanian said in a phone interview this week.

Engineers are required to sound their horns before each rail crossing, but a “quiet zone,” or section of railway where trains aren't required to use their horns, can be achieved with safety improvements such as upgraded signals or eliminating crossings altogether.

Pelanconi Estates residents have been vocal in their disdain for the train horns.

But the one-way crossing won't be enough to get quiet-zone status from the Federal Railroad Administration, Baghdanian said. The agencies also may have to install safety improvements at the crossing if the bridge doesn't come through.

The Los Angeles County Metropolitan Transportation Authority is currently looking for companies to perform engineering work for the bridge and “is very close to having the funding secured,” said Helen Ortiz-Gilstrap, a Metro spokeswoman.

But building a bridge also won't automatically give the city a quiet zone.

“You won't know all the details until you submit” an application, Baghdanian said.

The proposed bridge may look like a smaller version of the Fairmont Avenue bridge competed in 2010 over the railroad tracks, he said.

An administrative law judge is set to evaluate the proposal at the end of the month. The California Public Utilities Commission must also approve the plan.

If the bridge or one-way plans don't pan out, the agencies may have to do even more expensive safety enhancements to the crossing before applying for quiet-zone status.

Glendale is on its way to begin improving the four other crossings: Broadway/Brazil Street, Chevy Chase Drive, Grandview Avenue and Sonora Avenue.

On Tuesday, the City Council approved construction contracts for the more than $9 million worth of Grandview Avenue and Sonora Avenue improvements, and officials expect to put the $2.6 million Chevy Chase Drive project out to bid later this month.

The $2 million Broadway/Brazil Street project is set to begin construction next month.

All four should be complete by the fall of 2013, with most of the costs covered by grant funding.

“This is a great step forward,” said Mayor Frank Quintero at the council meeting. “It's going to make a big difference for noise and also make a big difference for safety … it's positive all the way around.”

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