Managing a Release Within a Trench
The Alameda Corridor is a 20-mile stretch in southern Los Angeles County, California, running from Long Beach and Los Angeles north to downtown Los Angeles.
In the mid-1980s, a plan was formed to improve cargo rail service between the transcontinental rail yards east of Los Angeles and the Ports of Long Beach and Los Angeles. The objective of the corridor was to increase the speed of the cargo trains by directing surface traffic over or under the track. The benefits of the corridor included additional volume of rail traffic, reduced delays to street traffic, and increased quality of life along the rail route. The Alameda Corridor Transportation Authority (ACTA) was formed to manage this immense project.
A major part of the project was accomplished by creating a 10-mile long trench, 33 feet deep by 50 feet wide, running directly down the middle of Alameda Street. It accommodates three rails. Construction included the removal of 4 million cubic yards of dirt, the relocation of several Native American burial sites, the construction of 29 new street crossings bridges, and the relocation of more than 3000 underground utility lines...an amazing engineering feat.
The $2.4 billion investment for the Alameda Corridor project ranked it at the time among the largest public infrastructure projects under construction in the United States. The corridor began operation in April of 2002 and today it allows more than 1200 trains a month to move quickly between the ports and downtown Los Angeles.
With the volume of traffic and special issues regarding the trains moving 33 feet below grade through densely populated areas, how could they manage the release of hazardous material in the trench?
ACTA, along with two of its Alameda Corridor Operating Committee members–BNSF Railway and Union Pacific Railway (UP) companies–took a proactive stance on managing emergencies anywhere along the Alameda Corridor.
With all Class 1 railroads in North America owning SAFER STAR® (System for Transportation Accident Response) solutions, as well as the Ports of Los Angeles and Long Beach, it was a natural choice for ACTA to implement SAFER STAR® with a SAFER Real-Time® solution in its chemical emergency response management program. The SAFER STAR® solution is invaluable to the transportation sector, and was a logical choice for the Alameda Corridor project.
As part of this project, SAFER Systems developed dispersion modeling specifically designed for the mid-corridor trench. SAFER engineers provided information on surface level impacts, taking into account the fact that the release point was below grade in the trench.
Since opening the Alameda Corridor, SAFER has joined ACTA in joint operations drills with the local fire, law enforcement, BNSF and UP Railroads. These drills include a hazardous material emission within the corridor while SAFER STAR is used to evaluate the hazard to the responders and community.
Every year SAFER STAR®, SAFER Real-Time® and SAFER's staff are praised broadly as a key component in understanding the impact of the event and for helping to continue to educate the first responders about the capability of the Railroads. SAFER uses the ACTA drill as a training event for its own staff as well and it has become a tradition for new staff to attend the drill.
SAFER successfully developed the first emergency response trench model that now provides a clear picture of ground level impact after being released in the trench. This development was a joint effort between ACTA, BNSF and UP that proved their commitment to safe management of the Alameda Corridor.
"It's part of the SAFER culture to create innovative solutions like the ACTA trench model and to participate in drills like the annual ACTA drill. We are very proud to be partners with BNSF, UP and ACTA and for our contributions to the continued safe operation of the Alameda Corridor", Ernie Gilbert, President [Partner], SAFER Systems.