Tuesday, September 8, 2015

Citizens For Chatsworth to Van Nuys LOSSAN Double Track

The Raymer to Bernson Double Track is in critical trouble.

Getting LA Moving: The Rancho Cucamonga Metrolink station catches a break in the crowd in between morning departures. How can we get the Northridge Station in LA to look like this with two tracks, two platforms, and a pedestrian underpass?

Transit Talking Points by: Nicholas Ventrone, Community Engagement Director
riversidetransit@gmail.com


I'm very thankful transit improvements are happening in the Inland Empire. I'll keep all of you posted of any major developments taking place here at home. But in Los Angeles, things are not so bright. So I'll be doing a number of behind-the-scenes work such as graphics and banners for LA's arm of The Transit Coalition. That's where the help is needed. The loud voices of transit opponents have been dominating the court of public opinion in this area for far too long.

One recent example is a local rail transit safety and train mobility enhancement project in the Northridge area that will have a positive impact on regional transportation. According to LA Metro, this busy LOSSAN Rail Corridor segment between Chatsworth and Van Nuys is currently single track. That of course causes a bottleneck of train traffic through this area. The Metrolink Ventura Line, selected trips of the Amtrak Pacific Surfliner, the Coast Starlight, and freight trains all utilize the corridor. Adding a second mainline through this area to offset the congestion should be a given. Plus, a number of rail crossings through this part of the San Fernarndo Valley are long overdue for safety upgrades. That's because of the increasing population density in this region.

Metro proposes to double the rail capacity through this area by adding just under 6 1/2 miles of second mainline tracks between DeSoto and Woodley Aveues and improve the grade crossing gates and other safety features. The Coalition's support for this will fall under the Rail Safety Coalition banner. Plus, Metro plans to add a second boarding platform and pedestrian underpass to the Northridge train station so that passenger trains using the second track would be able to use new train station infrastructure.

Now, you would think that all of these transportation improvements would bring value and safety to the San Fernando Valley. Right? Not so according to the group Citizens Against 2nd Railroad Track.

I have nothing personal against the people representing this group and if there's any legitimate concerns raised, we need to hear them so that such problems are addressed throughout the project. They have the Constitutional right to voice opinion. However, this project needs to move forward as the baby cannot be thrown out with the bathwater. The group has been highly divisive and several of the statements that are being put out there are misleading to say the least. Cutting through the chase, I believe fear has been driving this group's efforts. Loopholes in CEQA law to cash in on some settlement money through the court system could also be a contributor but that has not yet been proven. More on that at a later time.

Over the Labor Day weekend, the opposing party published this video:


In the speech, two of the group's representatives gave an extensive monologue against the project claiming the double tracking would exacerbate hazards along the LOSSAN Rail Corridor citing the Chatsworth, Glendale, and Oxnard Metrolink train crashes as examples. The worry is derailing train cars landing into their properties.

To be fair, the fear is somewhat understandable. When I was a teenager, my home was adjacent to a busy suburban street in south Orange County at the base of a hill and there was an epidemic of traffic collisions there caused by motorists ignoring the 45 MPH posted speed limit. My folks were worried that a car would one day crash through the brick wall separating the backyard from the road. That never happened but it turned out that stepped up law enforcement where motorcycle officers busted the speeders one after another was key to getting the speeding problem and collisions under control, not obstructing road improvement projects. A legitimate issue solved without the NIMBY obstruction.

The same can be said for the past Metrolink wrecks.

The 2008 Chatsworth crash comparison to this project is clearly out of the debate. That horrible collision took place on single track after the Metrolink locomotive engineer ran a red light just north of the station. Two tracks would not have worsened this situation. In fact, had that section been double tracked, the two trains would have passed through north Chatsworth safely.

The 2015 Oxnard crash argument is easily refuttable as well. Like the Chatsworth incident, that wreck also occurred on single track involving a stopped truck in the way. Cause is still being investigated and there may need to be a physical barrier like a chain link fence or guard rail placed between the tracks and the paralleling highway to prevent motorists from turning too early at crossings.

The 2005 Glendale train crash which is infamous of its chain reaction was directly caused by a criminal murderous and arson act. That was proven beyond a reasonable doubt in the court of law and judged by a jury in 2008. Jurors did not find the track infrastructure at fault.

Juan Manuel Álvarez, who left his Jeep Cherokee Sport in the right-of-way after a failed suicide attempt is currently serving 11 consecutive life sentences in prison with no possibility of parole for the murders and arson charges. Awareness campaigns and helplines at the ready can offset and deter people from taking their own lives, but obstructing LA Metro from building a second mainline is not going to reduce the suicide rate, arsonists or the massacring of innocents, period.

By the way, the White Oak Avenue cul-de-sac argument cited in the video presentation already has a fence and a few steel delineators to prevent vehicles from entering the rail right-of-way. A criminal would have to break through the fence in order to carry out an act of destruction. Leaving the right-of-way single tracked is not going to stop people like Álvarez from forcing his way in and parking a car on the tracks, but further improving positive train control by tracking such vehicle break-in's real time possibly can deter a train wreck. Has the opposing party advocated that?

Please help us fight against the loud NIMBY voice:

Your help and financial support is greatly appreciated. We need to let LA Metro and the public know that the double tracking project needs to move forward.

Please join the "Citizens for 2nd Railroad Track". A.k.a. The Transit Coalition.

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