Saturday, December 18, 2004

Gold Line Noise Relief Is on Track
Judge recommends resolving neighbors' complaints
by making the warning bells quieter, erecting sound walls.
By Sharon Bernstein - Times Staff Writer

The warning bells on the Metropolitan Transportation Authority's Gold Line trains would quiet down considerably through South Pasadena under a proposed settlement of noise complaints that won preliminary approval this week.

Under the draft proposal, which must be approved by the state Public Utilities Commission, the MTA would insulate the bells on the gates to make them quieter, shorten the length of time that the bells ring and erect sound walls near the tracks to keep the noise from bothering residents.

The recommendation by Administrative Law Judge Anne E. Simon, issued Thursday, comes after a year of legal maneuvering among the MTA, the city of South Pasadena, the Blue Line Construction Authority and people who live near the Gold Line tracks.

If approved, it would codify an agreement earlier this year between the two transportation agencies and the city, which provides for bells to be quieted at three key intersections in South Pasadena: Pasadena Avenue at Monterrey Road, Mission Street at Meridian Avenue and El Centro at Glendon Way. That prior agreement had not included the area residents.

In addition, safety gates would be installed at the El Centro location before the bells there are muted. The agreement also calls for the construction authority and the city to purchase the homes of residents who say the train remains too loud, and resell them to new owners who understand that they are purchasing homes where there is noise from a rail line.

Simon also recommended that two complaints filed by residents who live near the Gold Line tracks be denied. The neighbors had asked that the bells be eliminated completely, and the trains slowed to 15 mph through residential areas.

David Margrave, a South Pasadena city councilman who is part of the neighborhood group that filed the original complaints, said he was pleased that Simon appeared supportive of reducing the noise.

However, he said, his group planned to file a lawsuit in federal court asking that the bells be removed altogether, and the trains slowed to 20 mph. That group of neighbors earlier this month also filed a lawsuit in Los Angeles County Superior Court seeking compensation for the noise and other impacts of the trains on property values.

MTA officials would not comment on Simon's recommendation, which is still in draft form.

The agency and others who are involved have until Jan. 5 to respond to Simon's decision, and she may change it to reflect the concerns raised. The order will then go before the PUC, which regulates rail safety in California.

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