Rendering of the Doran Overpass

A rendering of the Doran Overpass (Courtesy of Arellano Associates / February 7, 2014)

Los Angeles County transportation officials presented several alternatives this week for a new overpass and other road work in the San Fernando Corridor that would pave the way for the closure of one of the most dangerous street-level crossings in the area and prepare for the planned California High-Speed Rail.

The authority that oversees the development of the bullet train, which is expected to run from San Francisco to Los Angeles in less than three hours by 2029, is slated to contribute funding to the overpass project, which doesn’t have a price tag yet.

The partnership is a way to “get more bang for our taxpayers buck,” Dan Sepulveda, project manager at the Los Angeles County Metropolitan Transportation Authority, said at a public meeting in Atwater on Thursday night.

All traffic crossings along the high-speed route will be required to have a flyover for safety, said Pat Somerville, project manager with HNTB, a Metro consultant.

But even if the controversial high-speed rail — which is expected to be at the same level as the current tracks along San Fernando Road — wasn’t part of the picture, transportation officials said an overpass is necessary to improve traffic safety in the area.

“Regardless if high-speed rail comes or not, there is the problem today,” Somerville said.

The four alternatives include:

- Building a flyover over Doran Street that loops around Commercial Street on the Glendale side of the tracks.

- Extending Doran Street on the Los Angeles side to travel north underneath the Ventura (134) Freeway and connect with Fairmont Avenue as well as an overpass that would extend from California Street to the intersection of Exchange and Sperry streets on the Los Angeles side.

- Extending Doran Street to Fairmont Avenue beneath the freeway and building an overpass to the Los Angeles side of San Fernando Road at a spot between Salem Street and Wilson Avenue.

- Extending Doran Street to Fairmont Avenue beneath the freeway and building an overpass at a point between Salem Street and Wilson Avenue that also connects to Brazil Street on the Los Angeles side.

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 is complete.

Glendale residents in the Pelanconi Estates neighborhood have supported the closure of Doran Street and safety improvements throughout the San Fernando Road corridor. These changes are the first step in applying for a “quiet zone” in the area from the Federal Railroad Administration. Nearly 100 trains pass daily through the corridor.

Train engineers must blow their horns at crossings until several safety improvements are complete and federal officials give the OK to silence the horns.

City, county, state and federal agencies have already funded four other railroad-crossing improvement projects — including new traffic signals, signage and street widening — on Chevy Chase Drive and Grandview, Sonora and Fairmont venues.

A project to improve the Broadway/Brazil Street crossing hit snags as Glendale and Los Angeles locked horns again and that crossing has been closed for months. While the Glendale side is complete, Los Angeles officials may begin construction on their side of the track this month, Sepulveda said.

Metro may also ultimately close the Broadway/Brazil Street crossing, but Somerville said the improvements being done now would not be wasted because it could be at least four years before the crossing may be closed.

More public outreach meetings should occur this spring and summer with a final alternative to be selected by Fall 2015 and construction to start summer 2016.

Cost analyses will be completed after the alternatives are whittled down, Sepulveda said. Metro already has $40 million in Measure R and 2009 federal stimulus money earmarked for the planned improvements, but if they cost more than that — which some alternatives may, especially if Metro has to acquire property — officials will have to search for more money. Measure R was a half-cent sales tax for traffic improvement projects approved by voters in Los Angeles County in 2008.

At the meeting, Judy Taylor, of Pelanconi Estates, said she preferred an alternative that would extend Doran Street to Fairmont Avenue, but she didn’t want a flyover.

“It would be faster,” she said. “Did you see all the property [in the rendering] that they would have to buy up for the other ones?”

Kamal Azeez of Atwater said he didn’t like any of the alternatives and would prefer if Metro built a flyover near the intersection of Colorado Boulevard and San Fernando Road, but Sepulveda said a similar idea was turned down by public safety officials who want to be able to quickly get to the northern area of the industrial corridor.

But Azeez wasn’t convinced.

“With their light on blaring, they can fly through there,” he said.

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

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