Train on the tracks

Authorities Work on Accident-Magnet Gold Line Barrier on 210 Freeway

Train on the tracks

Last October 2018, a trailer truck crashed on the median on the 210 Freeway in the Pasadena area shortly after 7 am. It hit two Metro Gold Line light-rail tracks before catching fire, causing train operations to shut down. The California Highway Patrol reports the semi-truck broke traffic across all lanes and pierced the barrier of the train system.

The collision prompted the closure of three westbound and one eastbound lane. Because the truck landed on the rail tracks, Gold Line also had to suspend operations between the Sierra Madre Villa and Allen stations for a few hours, although no trains were involved in the crash. Metro transported passengers between the two stations through a bus shuttle service.

By 3 pm, all lanes on the freeway reopened and the train resumed normal operations.

210 Freeway’s Threat to Gold Line and Safety

This is not the first time vehicles crashed into the Gold Line barrier in 210 Freeway. Trucks have crashed into the interstate divider 10 times in the last decade, and four of those happened in 2018 alone.

So far, these collisions haven’t hit stations and trains, but they’ve dealt extensive damage to the rail infrastructure. Metro Gold Line shoulders the expenses for the repairs, which can get expensive. The estimated cost for just five crashes is about $750,000. The crashes also cause service gaps and delays, which are a big inconvenience for train commuters.

The prevalence of these accidents poses a clear threat to motorists and train operators. The California Department of Transportation (Caltrans) must address the issue quickly before more people get harmed. Otherwise, they will be facing a bigger problem; harmed parties can bring in personal injury lawyers or commercial truck accident attorneys and sue Caltrans for negligence of their duty to maintain road safety. 

Compared to the 210, the 105 Freeway in South Bay where the Green Line runs through the middle has zero vehicle crashes. Local officials and experts can’t give a definite explanation for the increasing frequency of the collisions in the 210 freeway. But some planners suspect that the curve in the highway and the older standard used for building the barrier are part of the reasons.

Fixing the Gold Line Barrier

Just this year, the Metropolitan Transport Authority proposed a $22.6 million budget to build a new barricade that will protect the train lines. The new concrete barriers will be 4 feet, 8 inches tall, with smoother edges designed to force truck wheels back onto the highway.

This is double the original estimate of  $11 million. Engineers initially thought that they can easily swap the existing barriers for taller and thicker versions, but they’ve later realized that the tight median doesn’t allow much room for workers and the necessary equipment. They will also need to close the carpool lanes on 210 throughout Pasadena for as long as two years.

Closing parts of the 210, a route commonly used by trucks, will force riders to take alternative routes in Pasadena and consequently, increase traffic congestion in the city. To address this, the reinforcement project will have two phases because shutting down six miles of the interstate at the same time can cause major traffic complications.

Train tracks next to a park and recidential area.

The construction of the new barrier will start six to nine months after Metro’s environmental project.

Metro and Caltrans are working hand in hand in fixing the accident-magnet Gold Line barrier to ensure the safety of the people traversing the 210 Freeway. But riders also have the responsibility to drive safely and observe traffic regulations to help reduce road accidents.

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