Atwater Village and the West Doran Street Crossing

by journojames on January 17, 2012

Originally published Oct. 25, 2010

ATWATER VILLAGE – The Atwater Village Neighborhood Council (A.V.N.C.), in an effort to help local businesses and decrease traffic congestion to the area, passed a motion on Thursday to oppose the closing of the West Doran Street railroad crossing.

Atwater Village Neighborhood Council, Photo by JournoJames

The California Public Utilities Commission (C.P.U.C.) found the crossing to be unsafe and unnecessary after doing a study and issued the proposal.

The council plans to send a formal letter of its stance to Los Angeles City Hall and attend C.P.U.C. evidentiary and public proceedings for the next several months to officially voice its opposition, but C.P.U.C. has exclusive jurisdiction over railroad crossings in the state and would ultimately make the final decision.

“Given all the information and all the testimony given by the L.A.P.D., the fire department and the nearby business owners, I support the opposition,” said Cindy Jenkins, Board of Governor member and A.V.N.C. Officer.

The council, unanimously voting 11-0, argued a closure of the West Doran Street crossing would significantly increase traffic congestion, hurt major businesses by impeding access, and promote crime and gang activity in the area.

C.P.U.C.’s Consumer Protection and Safety Division officially initiated the proposal in February with support from the city of Glendale on the grounds of public safety.

C.P.U.C.’s Rail Crossings Engineering Section (R.C.E.S.) is primarily concerned because the street crossing is immediately adjacent to a propane and industrial gas truck loading and storage facility.

R.C.E.S. concluded that the high frequency and speed of passenger and freight trains, the constricted intersection and crossing, and the volume of traffic compounded this hazard.

Four accidents have occurred at the crossing in the past ten years resulting in two fatalities. Three of those incidents involved motor vehicles colliding with a train. Most recently, a pedestrian was struck and killed in November 2009 by an Amtrak train.

They also reported that the West Doran Street crossing was redundant and unnecessary because of two other crossings nearby, one at Brazil Street, located approximately one-half mile away, and the other on Colorado Street, approximately 4,500 feet away.

At the last public hearing in September, however, there were about twenty representatives from the businesses in the area who all spoke out against the potential street closing.

“There were only two Glendale residents who showed up advocating for the closing,” said Andrea Ventura, an attorney who is helping advise the council on the matter. “And they were just complaining about all the noise from the train crossing.”

West Doran Street Crossing, Photo by Google Maps

Located in the industrial and business district, West Doran is the most northern street in Atwater Village that crosses into the city of Glendale, and the issue of its closing has been raised before.

The street was scheduled to close in 1998 at the request of the city of Los Angeles, according to Ventura, who has researched the issue. She said the city of Los Angeles conducted some studies that showed that there would be negative traffic and financial impact if the street closed.

C.P.U.C., at the time, adopted the results with some modifications. As a result of the findings, West Doran Street remained open and Goodwin Street, located south of Doran, was closed instead.

For now, to mitigate the impact of potentially closing the West Doran Street crossing, C.P.U.C. has recommended improving the Brazil Street highway-rail at-grade crossing warning devices and constructing a crash wall adjacent to the industrial gas transfer facility to protect the gas storage tanks from potentially dangerous debris from any kind of nearby vehicle or train accident.

The Atwater Village Neighborhood Council plans to send its formal letter of opposition to C.P.U.C., Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa, L.A. Councilmen Eric Garcetti, Tom LaBonge, and to the Los Angeles Department of Transportation. The entire process is expected to take 18-months before C.P.U.C. makes a final ruling, but the Neighborhood Council was confident with their position.

“We don’t know what their motives really are at this time,” said Alex Ventura, Neighborhood Council member and representative of North Atwater. ”Their strongest argument is that it’s dangerous. I would make the argument: any time a train derails, bad things are going to happen.”

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