Pasadena Crossings

NOBLAG opposes the proposed at-grade crossings at Del Mar Blvd., California Blvd., Fillmore St. and Glenarm St., arguing that Blue Line has not met its burden of demonstrating that these would be safe and therefore should be separated. Fillmore St. will be closed to motor traffic and will only be available to pedestrians. Del Mar and California Blvds. are to have four-quadrant gates and pedestrian swing gates installed. Glenarm St. will be equipped with a raised median, No. 9 gates, and swing gates. All other than Fillmore Ave. will be equipped with an Adaptive Traffic Control System (ATCS), about which witness Korve testified,

But as designed, this system will also virtually assure that there will be no accidents. (Tr 1134)

Such absolute confidence summons to mind HAL's famous quote in Arthur C. Clarke's "2001: A Space Odyssey" describing its computer/robot self as "foolproof and incapable of error."

Furthermore, there appears to be some conflict as to whether ATCS is currently available. Witness Rix, City Engineer of Pasadena, testified that software for the system has yet to be designed. (Tr 780) Witness Korve stated that ATCS is

"...a standard concept used in many places throughout the world. So it's just as average or standard as an aspirin." (Tr 1130)

We gather from this apparent disagreement that ATCS is actually in use elsewhere but the specific system to be applied to Pasadena, and inferentially elsewhere on Blue Line, has not been developed and tested.

Blue Line presents extensive analyses of the present and anticipated traffic at the Pasadena crossings, all of which lead to the conclusion that the proposed at-grade crossings will be safe. Staff does not oppose at-grade crossings. The local civic and emergency authorities support the at-grade crossings. As with Avenue 45, public opinion expressed at the PPH and in letters and petitions to the Commission is mixed. All who were present favor construction of the Blue Line, but there are fervent supporters for both at-grade and separated solutions.

The evidence presented by Blue Line and the City of Pasadena was questioned at the hearing, and NOBLAG presented extensive opposing testimony. Though it insists that separations are essential for all crossings, NOBLAG aimed its most concerted fire at Del Mar Blvd. This is the most heavily used proposed at-grade crossing in the entire project. (Tr 1858)

Since the close of the evidentiary hearings the local Zoning Hearing Officer announced approval of a major project at the Del Mar Blvd. intersection. By Ruling dated January 18, 2002 the ALJ permitted NOBLAG to file a declaration explaining the effect that the new complex would have on safety at the Del Mar Blvd. crossing.

All parties were permitted to file responses. Only Blue Line availed itself of this opportunity. In addition to the evidence presented during the regular hearing NOBLAG's declaration raised significant issues concerning the added traffic that would result from 347 new apartments, several businesses, and 1,200 to 1,500 parking spaces associated with the new complex. The declaration also depicts how the new complex will be built over and around the track of Blue Line, so that the train will emerge as from the mouth of a tunnel. Train operators will have restricted sight lines to traffic at the intersection when heading south, as will motorists to the train.

In reply, Blue Line states that this is not new information to the extent that it was mentioned as a possibility in NOBLAG's testimony. The declaration also disputes the severity of the sight-line reduction claimed by NOBLAG. In fact, traffic engineer Korve, sponsored by Blue Line, testified:

Q So is it your testimony that the installation of crossing gates obviates the need to be concerned about sight, line of vision, line of sight, rather?

A If you have gates, then the line of sight is not as important. You always would like to have line of sight just so both sides could see each other, but it's not necessary when you have positive controls such as gates.

Q Well, focusing though on line of sight, is there some minimal distance down the track that you would consider it necessary for a motorist to be able to see a train or a pedestrian to be able to see a train to have a safe crossing?

A With gates you don't need it. (Tr 1138-39)

The laudatory endorsement of safety provided by gates, even the new 4-quadrant gates, do not satisfy us for all circumstances. If gates were the definitive solution to crossing protection there would never be instances where drivers crash through them on their way to an accident. We applaud the use of ATCS but are not satisfied that even this technology is always an adequate substitution for a grade separation. The sight lines for both train operators and motorists will be severely restricted as compared with sight lines for the remainder of the project. Traffic is already heavy at the proposed crossing and will worsen with construction of the new complex abutting the crossing.

NOBLAG points to other planned construction that will further increase the usage of Del Mar Blvd. at the point of the proposed crossing. Blue Line argues that it is not responsible for traffic generated by future developments unrelated to Blue Line. (R.B. p 38) While Blue Line may absolve itself from this responsibility the Commission may not. Even if the Del Mar Blvd. crossing were marginally safe at present, if we can foresee that the future is perilous, we should not authorize an at-grade crossing.

A decision denying an at-grade crossing at Del Mar Blvd. will not necessitate further separations on the project. This matter was specifically addressed during the hearings. In response to questions from the ALJ the project manager of Blue Line testified:

Q All right. If the Commission were to deny one of the at-grade crossings in Pasadena advocated by NOBLAG and the project were still going to continue, would there have to be construction of more than that one separation that the Commissioner ordered?

A The spacing between Del Mar and California - longitudinal spacing between them - and between California and Glenarm, in accordance with the analysis I've done in my testimony, the "what if" analysis on grade crossing - on grade separation, is sufficient that in my opinion either of those three could be built independent of the other two. (Tr 1702-3)

We find that an at-grade crossing at Del Mar Blvd. will not be safe to the public and the application as currently presented should be denied.

As for the other at-grade crossings contested by NOBLAG we find that the measures proposed by Blue Line will provide adequate safety. The crossings are not skewed, the sight lines are not obscured, and the traffic will not be so drastically changed as to indicate the need for further protection.

There were no protests or issues raised about proposed at-grade crossings at Hope or Fremont/Grevalia Streets in South Pasadena or a separated crossing at Fair Oaks Ave. in Pasadena.

We determine that at-grade crossings at California Blvd., Fillmore St., and Glenarm St. will be safe and should be authorized. Separations are not practicable. We determine that an at-grade crossing at Del Mar Blvd. will not be safe and should therefore be denied.

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