Funding glitch keeps railroad crossing closed between Glendale and Los Angeles

A railroad crossing at the border between Glendale and Los Angeles could remain closed for nearly another year after Glendale, Los Angeles and Metrolink officials ditched plans to reopen the crossing during construction lulls.

While Glendale and Metrolink completed work months ago on the Jewel City's side of the Broadway/Brazil Street crossing, Los Angeles officials said that city's work on its own side of the crossing may not be done until next summer due to funding snags, according to a Sept. 1 report to the California Public Utilities Commission, which is overseeing the multi-agency project.

MAP: Railroad crossing at Brazil Street and Broadway

Transportation and municipal officials considered reopening the crossing until Los Angeles begins construction, expected to be early next year, but decided the risks did not make doing that worthwhile. 

“After opening the crossing in a limited fashion to test the viability of several interim solutions, all parties and the safety officers concluded unanimously that no effective interim solution existed that would achieve the required level of safety,” Jeff Lustgarten, spokesman for Metrolink, said in an email last week.

Glendale has been working on improving several railroad crossings in order to apply for “quiet zone” status from the Federal Railroad Administration for the section of track that runs past the city's western boundary. Train conductors sound their engines' horns hundreds of times a day, much to the chagrin of nearby residents, especially those in Pelanconi Estates. But federal officials require safety enhancements such as widened streets and new signals before permitting the quieter passage. 

Improvements have already been made at a handful of crossings, such as those at Grandview and Sonora avenues, and future improvements at other crossings, such as the one at Chevy Chase Drive, are in the pipeline. Glendale has used tens of millions of dollars in city, state and federal funds for the crossing improvement projects.

Orange cones and “road closed” signs block off the Broadway/Brazil crossing, but that hasn't stopped at least one car from driving through it. Last month, police said, a drunk driver got stuck on the tracks, delaying a freight train. A tow truck removed the car and the driver was arrested.

Los Angeles, Metrolink and Glendale officials all blame one another for the delays. Glendale and Metrolink officials have said Los Angeles has been dragging its feet, while Los Angeles attorneys claimed earlier this month that other agencies weren't holding up their end of the bargain.

In addition, Los Angeles officials stated that city didn't receive authorization to use federal money on the project until late July, nearly three weeks after Metrolink finished work on Glendale's side of the tracks.

Los Angeles doesn't plan to start the estimated five to seven months of construction on its portion until January, Valerie Flores, a senior official in the City Attorney's office, wrote in her Sept. 1 report.

“Despite the ‘uphill battles' Los Angeles has faced throughout this project, Los Angeles strives to complete the Los Angeles work,” Flores wrote.

Glendale Councilman Ara Najarian, who sits on Metrolink's board of directors, said Tuesday that he was saddened by the delay and hopes something can be done to speed up Los Angeles' timeline.

“We're too close to be just delayed on this,” he said.

It may be several years before Glendale can apply for a quiet zone, even after Los Angeles and Glendale iron out the Broadway/Brazil problems.

Another crossing on the border, at Doran Street, has caused even bigger headaches. Citing its proximity to a propane storage facility on the Los Angeles side of the tracks, Glendale wanted to close the crossing altogether but Los Angeles fought to keep it open because it is an access point for emergency vehicles.

The two sides have since put a plan in place to build a $40-million grade-separated crossing to improve safety and to maintain access for vehicle traffic, but that project could take years before getting out of the planning stages.


Follow Brittany Levine on Google+ and on Twitter: @brittanylevine.


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