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Agency balks at railroad crossing

• PUC doesn't like idea of Lyons Avenue junction

Posted: May 30, 2008 1:47 a.m.
Updated: July 31, 2008 5:01 a.m.

Plans to construct a key railroad crossing at Lyons Avenue near Railroad Avenue is so far not getting much support from the Public Utilities Commission, a state agency that regulates and oversees railroad crossings.

As city officials expected, upon preliminary review of the first stage of the city's North Newhall Specific Plan, the commission stated it would oppose the construction of a new street-level crossing for Lyons Avenue.

The specific plan calls for commercial and residential buildings on 200 acres at the mouth of Placerita Canyon and the city wants to extend Dockweiler Road to connect with Lyons Avenue. Land use planning will depend on the street plans.

Work has now begun on the environmental impact report for the crossing and the city will not officially apply to the commission until the environmental review is complete, said city Senior Planner Jason Smisko.

For safety reasons, the commission discourages street-level railroad crossings, preferring other methods such as bridges, to keep vehicles off railroad tracks.

"The commission generally does not approve the construction of new at-grade crossings unless the applicant can provide substantial evidence that a grade separation is not practicable and that there exists a compelling public need," PUC Utilities Engineer Laurence Michael said in a letter to the city.

Smisko said, however, that the environmental impact report will show the crossing could be built safer than other crossings on the same street, such as providing better signage and creating wider paths for vehicular traffic.

"There is an ability to gain approval of at-grade crossings," Smisko said.

He said he expects the environmental review process to be completed in early 2009.


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