Los Angeles & neighbouring counties: More than USD3 billion invested

11 Mar

in the past decade more than USD3 billion has been invested in the counties in the greater Los Angeles region. However, an investigation by the Los Angeles Times has shown that investment varies greatly county by county.

Orange County has spent about USD1 billion on improvements at 52 crossings it maintains. The upgrades include obstacle detection and warning system upgrades. Additionally five grade-separation schemes have been completed. Similarly, the Los Angeles County Metropolitan Transportation Authority has similarly invested around USD1 billion, completing 18 grade-separations and upgrades at a further 36 level crossings. In total there are 180 level crossings for which the Transportation Authority has responsibility.

By contrast, Ventura County has no special tax revenues with which to fund upgrades and has only USD18 million to commit to level crossing safety schemes. Indeed, the planned road-over-rail bridge planned for the Rice Avenue level crossing in Oxnard on which there was a fatal accident (the train driver has died from injuries sustained) on February 24th has been an aspiration for twenty years because funding for the USD35 million scheme has not been forthcoming.

San Bernardino County has committed about USD340 million for 10 grade-separation schemes. Neighboring Riverside County has spent about USD461 million since 2008 on various crossing improvements. But even with a transportation sales tax, the county has far more work to be done than money available. A plan to build overpasses at 31 high-priority crossings has had to be scaled back to 20, with five finished and eight under construction.

Building overpasses and underpasses reduces traffic delays and effectively eliminates the risk of collisions between trains and vehicles. But at $20 million to $100 million each, depending on terrain, design and surrounding land values, only a relative handful of those are considered practical, officials say.

Representatives for Union Pacific Railroad and the Burlington Northern Santa Fe Railway, the two Class One Railroads operating in Southern California, said they work closely with state and local officials. But ultimately government agencies decide what types of warning devices to install, they added. A Union Pacific spokesman said the company has reduced level crossing accident rates along its rights-of-way by 15% from 2003 to 2013.

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