New solution for dangerous railroad crossing proposed

While Los Angeles County transportation officials are considering four options for building a new overpass at one of the most dangerous railroad crossings in the area, Councilman Ara Najarian has pitched another idea.

Instead of building an overpass at the Doran Street railroad crossing, he's suggesting two bridges, one that would allow traffic to cross the Los Angeles River and another that would go across the Verdugo Wash.

The Doran Street railroad crossing would be closed permanently, a longtime request from some Glendale residents that has been opposed by Los Angeles officials who say the closed crossing would cut off emergency access to businesses on the Los Angeles side of the track.

"It would be a great solution to our problem because it would eliminate any sort of crossing at Doran; it would give the trucks the access they really want which are the freeways; it would create connection to Griffith Park for bicyclists, pedestrians and equestrians; it would connect to our Riverwalk; and it will keep all those trucks off of Glendale and keep them in Los Angeles, where they come from and they want to return to," he said. "It's a win-win."

His idea is currently being analyzed by officials at the Metropolitan Transportation Authority, said Metro spokesman Paul Gonzales. It has already been reviewed by Glendale engineering staff, said Public Works Director Steve Zurn.

Najarian's proposed bridges would begin at the terminus of Doran Street in the Atwater neighborhood of Los Angeles and connect to Zoo Drive to the west and Fairmont Avenue to the north, providing access to on-ramps onto the Ventura (134) and Golden State (5) freeways.

Those traveling westbound from Glendale would have to drive through another nearby crossing. Currently, the Broadway/Brazil Street crossing is closed due to construction and drivers have to pass through at other crossings. Although it is scheduled to reopen after safety improvements are complete, it may be closed permanently, a Metro consultant said at a February public meeting.

The current MTA-sanctioned alternatives for Doran Street involve a variety of flyovers from Glendale to Los Angeles and some include extending Doran Street on the Los Angeles side to Fairmont Avenue to the north.

The county agency — which Najarian helps steer as a member of its board of directors representing Glendale and other cities — is heading up the overpass project. The MTA has set aside $40 million for the project, but a cost analysis for its alternatives has not been completed.

Money for the California High Speed Rail may also play a role because the planned bullet train that is expected to run from San Francisco to Los Angeles in three hours by 2029 would require overpasses at every crossing for safety.

For years, Glendale and Los Angeles officials have butted heads over the Doran Street crossing. Glendale officials called for the crossing's closure due to its proximity to a propane facility, while their Los Angeles counterparts fought for it to remain open so that public-safety officials could access the industrial area on the Los Angeles side of the tracks.

The California Public Utilities Commission has ruled that Doran Street should be made one-way westbound until a grade separation, such as an overpass, is complete.

Glendale residents in Pelanconi Estates see the closure of Doran Street as the key to getting a so-called "quiet zone" from the Federal Railroad Administration. Train engineers must blow their horns at crossings until several safety improvements are complete and federal officials give the OK to silence the horns. Nearly 100 trains pass daily through the corridor.

Najarian encouraged Glendale residents to tell MTA officials they support his bridge proposal. MTA officials held a public outreach meeting in February, but more are planned for this spring and summer with a final alternative to be selected by fall 2015 and construction to start the following summer.

"I hope that [the bridge proposal] catches on," Najarian said. "I do think it's a really good solution."


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


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