Metro Reaches Deeper into Wallet to Fix Portion of 210 Freeway Prone to Crashes Impacting the Gold Line

Published : Thursday, April 25, 2019 | 4:55 AM

The map above shows locations of 10 major incidents where crashes along the I-210 Foothill Freeway have resulted in damage to the Gold Line in recent years. Image courtesy of L.A. Metro

The Los Angeles Metro Board of Directors today could pump another $11 million into an increasingly costly and complex plan to install improved, taller barriers separating the 210 Freeway in East Pasadena from the Gold Line tracks to reduce the fallout from repeated collisions there.

Over the last decade, 10 crashes along a six-mile stretch of the 210 in Pasadena where the Gold Line runs in the freeway median have sent vehicles flying over jersey barriers and onto the rails.

Each time the Gold Line was shut for repairs, often for days, even for weeks. Freeway traffic was bottlenecked as the repairs were made. And commuters asked, why doesn’t Metro put up better barriers?

Last July Metro staff first announced that design work was underway on an I-210 Barrier Replacement Project. It featured new stronger barriers plus an intrusion detection system and was expected to cost $11 million.

Existing and proposed barriers. Image courtesy of L.A. Metro

But almost immediately, the project’s ramifications became clear.

“This is an incredibly constrained location. There is neither space on the trackside nor on the freeway side,” Metro spokesman Brian Haas told Pasadena Now in an earlier interview. “Construction requires space.”

That not only makes the work time-consuming and expensive, but it will take a significant toll on 210 Freeway traffic, he said.

“To build these barriers we will need to take the HOV lanes for the duration of the contract and the next general purpose lane during weekends and nights. We’ll also need to single-track our rail operations,” Haas said.

“Taking freeway lanes in that area will result in traffic delays that are beyond the ‘acceptable’ range,’” he continued. “This will in turn affect the air quality and noise in the area. These, together with the traffic congestion on the freeway and local roads due to freeway traffic being diverted into the local streets, will require an expanded environmental study that translates into time and money.”

Despite the challenges, “The Metro Board has already committed to completing this project,” Haas said.

With the barrier replacement project, Metro’s intention is to install four-foot-eight-inch-high barriers after removal of the current two-feet-eight-inch barriers. The new barriers would also be designed to better absorb impact, and to keep vehicles on the freeway.

At Thursday’s meeting, the Metro Board will consider a proposal to increase the design life-of-project (LOP) budget of the project by $11,463,026, increasing it from $11,078,366 to $22,541,392; the proposal also asks the Board to authorize Metro’s Chief Executive Officer to implement an increase in the total contract value from $30 million to $41 million, the meeting’s agenda showed.

The increases are necessary because the environmental impact and disruption to Metro Gold Line operations during construction have become much larger than initially anticipated, Metro said.

Metro explained the original project was initially scoped and considered as a relatively simple and straightforward barrier replacement project.

“It was assumed that this project would be easily cleared environmentally because all the anticipated work was going to be within the prism of the roadway on State or public right-of-way. Also, no significant impacts or resource agency permits were expected. However, as the design development phase proceeded, information from the field began to greatly complicate the project,” a Metro Board report dated March 21, 2019 said.

According to Metro, the project will be broken into two phases: the first will be from the Michillinda Avenue overpass in Pasadena, to the Gold Line bridge in Arcadia that takes the tracks from the 210 median to south of the freeway; the second phase will be the stretch of freeway in Pasadena from west of Lake Avenue to Michillinda Avenue.

Because of the tight working space on the project site, Metro and Caltrans may have to close the HOV (high-occupancy vehicle) lane on the I-210 freeway and single track the Gold Line during the removal of the existing median barrier and installation of the new one, the Metro report said.

Metro said a complex traffic study underway to quantify traffic impacts to the freeway and city streets once construction begins.

A Procurement Summary attached to the agenda for the Board of Directors meeting Thursday showed the agency is looking at a project completion date around June 2020.

The meeting was to begin at 9:30 a.m. at the third-floor boardroom in One Gateway Plaza, behind Union Station in Los Angeles.