Testing Ongoing for Gold Line Eastside Extension. Opening Set for November?

10_8_09_they_arrive.jpgAn alien invasion and the Eastside Extension are coming in November.  Photo: Randall Fleming

Pre-revenue testing has commenced in earnest on the Metro Gold Line Eastside Extension (MGLEE). The testing started last Sunday, October 4th. By Monday the trains were running frequently and appeared to be running without any problems. Unlike the stress and other tests, the pre-revenue tests are meant to introduce all involved parties-drivers, motorists, residents and store owners-with the trains’ routes and running times. It was not difficult to spot a number of the trains passing by on Alameda, E. First, Indiana and E. 3rd Streets throughout the day.

Several trains have been added to compensate for the longer runs. On the Union Station to Pasadena run, there are normally 20 trains assigned-although not all are running constantly. According to Gold Line spokesperson José Ubaldo, there will be 36 trains assigned to the entire Gold Line in the same fashion. During the five-week pre-revenue testing phase, there will be 7 more trains running to compensate for the non-passenger testing stretch beyond Union Station. Gold Line passengers are being urged to disembark at Union Station as if exiting at any other station, as the trains continue south and east to Atlantic. Save for the absence of straphangers, the trains are running as they are planned to perform when the MGLEE is opened for public transit. The opening date is set for November and will be announced sometime in October, according to Metro spokespeople.

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All except two of the stations are above ground. The exceptions are Mariachi Plaza and Soto stations. The rest of the line is along at-grade track that maintains various distances from sidewalks and motorways. Much of the MGLEE’s path is through working class neighborhoods with heavy pedestrian traffic, and there are some portions that run very close to where school children tend to walk as well as cross the tracks. These segments have concrete berms on either side of the track but no railings nor gates; all of the stations have special traffic lights to warn of oncoming trains. Metro has declared that safety remains a top priority for the MGLEE’s operation, but the tight turns on either side of the Indiana station are the ones to watch. Portions of the steel fence surrounding the platform and nearest the intersection and pedestrian gates had to be removed owing to the train operators’ severely limited vision.

Metro CEO Art Leahy requested an independent panel of three rail transit safety experts whose experience was gained working at Muni (San Francisco), Tri-Met (Portland), Federal Transit Administration’s office of Safety and Security and the San Diego Trolley as well as several tri-state rail agencies in NY, NJ and PA. The panel concluded that "the new Metro Gold Line to East Los Angeles has been designed and built to operate safely."

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Nevertheless, the panel of three "suggested additional safety enhancements such as installing fencing in areas where frequent jaywalking is observed, installing raised buttons or rumble strips and reflective pavement markers so motor vehicles don’t accidentally intrude on the trainway, reduce warning sign clutter" among other suggestions.

As the tests near the end of the first week’s testing, Metro states that the trains are running as planned and that there are no problems.

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