Sunday, March 16, 2008

Leucadia Pedestrian Tunnels: a terrible waste of money or wise investment?

Because we live in 21st century America the simple and affordable solution to moving pedestrians safely across train tracks is not an option.

In 21st century America we gotta dig deep.

From the North County Times:

The undercrossings are expected to cost about $5 million each, for a total of about $20 million.

Many in the audience noted that much cheaper ground-level at-grade crossings are used in other states and other countries. At-grade pedestrian rail crossings generally use automatic metal gates hooked to sensors in the tracks that only open when trains are not coming.

Russell Levan noted that at-grade crossings are much cheaper than digging under the rails.

"It just seems like a terrible waste of money at a time when there isn't any to be had," he said.

But Tognoli said the California Public Utilities Commission does not favor at-grade crossings because they do not separate pedestrians and trains. He said getting approval for ground-level crossings would be a long battle with no guarantee of success.

"If you want to have a project, this, realistically, is your only option," he said. source

Burning Question: $5 million bucks to get a human across four feet and eight-and-half-inches of train track?


  1. It appears the PUC doesn't think were smart enough to make sure the train isn't going to run over us before we cross. I know I feel safer knowing the crossing arm at Leucadia Blvd. will keep me safe since I know were to look and see if the trains coming East or West of is that North or South shoot I hope it doesn't turn and run me over.

  2. The comment:

    "Because we live in 21st century America the simple and affordable solution to moving pedestrians safely across train tracks is not an option." seems to be contradicted by the picture above it (and the better examples we saw at the workshops that make people face both directions before they cross.)

    RSPB asked a good question on the last thread about the expensive tunnels: "Who's idea was this?"
    Mark my words, that's something we'll never be told. We'll just be expected to accept it as the best solution like good sheep.

  3. address the problem and Bury the tracks!

  4. The at grade crossings are a very European solution that insists the individual take responsibility for their own welfare and safety. In this country there are too many hungry lawyers who insist we never need to take that responsibility, and in fact need to be protected from ourselves. The tunnel solution relieves the NCTD and PUC of any liability. Tunnelling under the tracks has become the preferred solution based on legal ramifications and risk management analysis. A country designed by attorneys and measured by bean-counters.

  5. Tunnels will include fencing to force you to use them. Fences won't stop determined suicides. It would be cheaper to hire crossing guards to escort you safely across.

  6. At one of the Streetscape meetings, Dan Burden showed us a photo of a crossing in Europe that was level, and had a little walkway and I think he said that lights flashed and a bell rang when the trian approached. If you had enough signage, wouldn't that be enough to present "an assumed risk" situation whereby the city would be free of liability? When you go to the beach you are assuming a risk. And what will these tunnels look and smell like in a few months? Ewwww!

  7. How much do the Coaster Cops that patrol the tracks cost taxpayers every year?

  8. What's worse than a hungry lawyer is the stupid law making NCTD responsible in the first place. People need to be accountable for themselves when they cross train tracks, and the law needs to be changed to protect NCTD from lawsuits and restore our freedom to cross.
    But absolutely nothing NCTD can do will diminish suicides. Unless purdy flowers might make people want to live more.

  9. Fred is right about the suicide part. If a person wants to kill him or herself, they will find a way. Trains have been a way for as long as trains have been around. I am not quite sure why and how the NCTD is responsible if someone lies on a railroad track when they know a train is approaching. How does an attorney win that kind of case against the NCTD?

  10. Pedestrian Bridges (tunnels)
    What works; What doesn't.

    Pedestrian bridges (tunnels) remove all conflicts with traffic on the road (railroad) below. They would seem to be the perfect solution for getting pedestrians across the street. But are they always appropriate?

    There are three main situations where a grade crossing is not possible and pedestrian bridges are essential:
    1) Crossing interstate highways, where stopping traffic is not an option;
    2) Crossing rivers, ravines, and other natural physical obstacles;

    3) Crossing railroad switchyards, where parked trains block the path and moving trains frequently shuttle back and forth on multiple tracks.

    Pedestrian bridge across a switchyard in Missoula, Montana. The bridge features both a winding ramp and an elevator at each end, and observing platforms for railfans at the midpoint.

    There are situations where a grade crossing is possible, but a pedestrian bridge will be used voluntarily by most pedestrians and will be a good investment:
    1) The road is depressed in a cut, so the pedestrian bridge is at grade level and seems more convenient than descending to road level;

    This street dips below grade in Lansing, Michigan, to allow a mid-block pedestrian plaza to cross over it at grade. The city also has crosswalks at adjacent intersections where the street is back at grade level.

    2) There is a natural "desire line" that can be used for a gradual ramp up to the bridge without switchbacks or detours, such as where a rail-trail crosses a road.

    The Capital Crescent Trail in Bethesda, Maryland, ramps up to a bridge over River Road. Trail users do not perceive the ramp as inconvenient because it is along their natural line of travel, so most people elect to use the bridge.

    There are situations where bridges built to replace a grade crossing fail miserably.
    1) Long winding ramps, stairs, or elevators, are perceived as inherently inconvenient by most pedestrians when a grade-level crossing is possible.

    This pedestrian bridge connects Prince George's Plaza with the nearby Metrorail station in Hyattsville, Maryland. The design of the bridge and its environment makes it seem inconvenient to many pedestrians. Half of the pedestrians crossing here cross at grade level in the shadow of the bridge.

    2) In addition, because of their expense, bridges are usually far apart. Most pedestrians will not voluntarily accept the added inconvenience of walking ten or twenty minutes out of their way just to get to a bridge, and instead will cross at grade at the nearest convenient location.

    Rather than create bridges that have both a convenient design and a convenient location, some transportation departments erect fences and barriers to force pedestrians to use the inferior bridges they do build. This Berlin-Wall approach to pedestrian control represents a failure to understand what pedestrians need.

    Would a majority of pedestrians use a proposed bridge without being forced to by a fence?
    If not, the designers need to work harder to improve the postive attractions of the bridge, rather than relying entirely on the negative barrier of the fence. A fence, if used at all, should be a supplement to good design, rather than the only incentive for pedestrians to use a poorly designed bridge in a poorly designed environment.

  11. As a lawyer I resemble that remark, yes I get hungry -- but that doesn't mean I file frivolous lawsuits. You can't sue for something that isn't a violation of the law. Lawyers are why there are flashing lights and crossing guard posts at intersections. As for tunnels that doesn't make economic sense. 4 proposed $5 mil tunnels would pay for the track being below grade -- the Solana Beach improvements also included a station and access -- not needed in Leucadia. I also think grade level crossings are more cost efficient -- people cross anyways. I remember being 9 years old and putting pennies on the tracks, standing just 5 feet from the rails. If someone wants to be stupid around a train, there is no way you can prevent it.

  12. Do not put fingers in blender when operating do not stand on train tracks when train is approaching, common sense. It doesn't make sense to me that were allowed to walk at all it could be dangerous and on the street is people can turn their vehicles hit the gas instead of the brake swerve after dropping their cell phone in their starbucks and run you over but of course thats legal. Crossing 4'8" of track which trains occupy a total of 1 hour a day needs a 5 million dollar solution for our safety go figure.

  13. 9:39

    You're my kind of lawyer. (Where were you when we needed you?)

    And I didn't mean to impugne your profession, just some in it who knowingly play to win when they know they're in the wrong. I have a problem with that being good for the justice system. You on the other hand make sense.

  14. Fred, the first thing one learns in law school is that the practice of law has nothing to do with justice. In my earlier comments, I didn't mean to slam the entire profession, there are some fine, compassionate lawyers out there. My criticism involved the propensity for greed and self-serving activities that encompasses the system from lawmakers to trial lawyers. I should also include the jurors who have been responsible for stupid, inappropriate awards that skew the system.
    Basically, it just seems so clear that the justice system won't let us as individuals be responsible for ourselves and suffer the consequences of our actions. Instead it seems that some entity must always be at fault (preferably one with deep pockets). The saddest part is that the legal profession knows about it's bad rap, but does nothing to begin the cleanup, short of damage control.

    Sorry for the rant.

  15. The "beauty" of 4 tunnels at $5 million each is twofold; one, they can be built and paid for one at a time over 20 years, and second, they will insure the failure of depressing the tracks forever.

  16. #1 The NCTD is going to double track through Leucadia sooner than later.

    #2 Tunnels will mean the tracks will NEVER be lowered EVER.

  17. 7:55

    Good points. But I still disagree, not with you, but with the deliberate philosophy of the practice of law and pursuit of justice being foreign entities to each other. Whaddan ironic mess.

  18. Evidently, the city of Encintas has hired an engineering firm that in October was being co-sued for $3million for alleged erroneous work they did on the Golden Gate Bridge.
    The Oct 24, 2007 Oakland Tribune article begins with:
    “Workers this month made temporary emergency repairs on the north viaduct of the Golden Gate Bridge to strengthen faulty seismic work that could cost more than $3 million to fix, bridge officials said Monday.
    The Golden Gate Bridge district has filed a lawsuit against the partnership responsible for the work's design that "contained numerous errors and omissions," according to a district report scheduled to be heard Thursday by the span's Building and Operating Committee. The initial work, done five years ago, will have to be redone and could cost the district more than $3 million. The district lawsuit targets the TY Lin International/Imbsen and Association Inc. Joint Venture..”

    But as if by the foreshadows of numerous bad omens, when the hired consultant came to Encinitas and declared that removing the Eucalyptus trees in Leucadia was a good thing for the tunnels he has planned, I thought, how convenient. So who chose to hire this consultant?

  19. The consultants were hired because they know how to do cool landscaping and protect against skateboarders.

  20. don't blame the consultants, they are doing what the City is paying them to do.

    Someone asked the question before. Who asked for these tunnels?

    They are definately not looking out for Encinitas best interest. There is no way this community will let double tracking and fencing go up without blow back. Serious blow back.

    Blow back that NCTD would not want to experience for the next 50 years!

    eventually, we will get some good representation on NCTD and SANDAG who will educate the others and explain that cost of lowering the tracks is the cost of mitigation to increase a rail line from 12 trains a day to 100 trains a day. With all high cost from noise, safety, stress, and pollution caused by these additional 80 trains, the undergrouding project benefits far outweigh the costs.

  21. Skateboarding is the #1 threat to public safety. More than illegal aliens or gay marriage combined.

  22. I was wondering if anyone knows if NCTD has ever been sued by the family of someone killed by the train? I'm puzzled by this as it's not the motorists fault if they kill someone jay walking or trying to run across the freeway. I guess I don't see the difference between the two circumstances if you don't pay attention you get to sue?

  23. Bury the tracks? Why don't we bury everything--highways, houses, hospitals, schools, offices--and leave the surface free for wetlands, meadows, forests, and just plain open space.

  24. I also think that we could have at grade crossings.

    What is not mentioned, here, is the flooding problems that could occur. What would the liability be for someone getting caught in the tunnel if the pumps failed in a power outtage during a storm?

    Also, no one has pointed out the increase in crime that would surely happen with tunnels.

    City has sent out legal notice of environmental review and comment period. Comments must be received, re undergrounding the pedestrian crossings by Arpil 14, 2008. Please put these in writing.

    Leroy Bodas, Sr. Encinitas Engineer, told me at the Leucadia 101 streetscape workshop that there is only money, possibly, for the crossing at Santa Fe Dr. to be started.

    I do NOT think this project should get a negative environmental impact declaration, due to the possible flooding issues.

    Yes, I would also not want the tunnels because then the tracks would NEVER EVER be undergrounded.

    Jerome Stocks would like this "set in stone," so that no one can come to the NCTD for money for undergrounding the tracks. He said at a recent Council Meeting that NCTD is having significant money problems. He said something drastic, like stopping trains and busses on Sundays would have to be done due to less sales tax coming in. He didn't mention the fact that NCTD has mismanaged its money from the new tax citizens already voted on, and has had to pay fines due to run off from construction of the Sprinter.

  25. It occured to me the other day that the tunnels could end up costing $10 million each and then the city would decide to just build two of them. Seems to be the way things unfold frequently.

  26. you mean Leroy Bogus, Kool-aid drinker supreme


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