Thursday, May 06, 2010

Colton Crossing project would provide about $64 million in improvements

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Colton, Calif., city officials say the long-awaited Colton Crossing project would bring improvements valued around $64 million to the city, but a critical component state transportation officials seek still hasn't been secured, the Redlands Daily Facts reports.

The California Transportation Commission, the state's transportation agency, has requested the Southern California Consensus Group - comprised of transportation agencies and Los Angeles County ports - approve a letter of support for the project.

Local stakeholders have until Friday to convince the consensus group to submit the letter to the commission, said Jane Dreher, spokeswoman for San Bernardino Associated Governments, or Sanbag, the county's transportation agency.

On May 19 and 20, the commission is set to vote on whether or not it will allocate $91.3 million in bond money to help fund the project's estimated $202 million cost. Another $34 million in federal Recovery Act funds also hinge on the commission's vote. If the project isn't approved, the money would go back to Washington, D.C., and likely never return to Southern California, officials have said.

At an April meeting, the commission decided to delay voting on the matter for a month and requested the letter and two memorandum of understanding documents be submitted by the deadline. The memorandums have been finalized. The letter hasn't. Mayor Kelly Chastain said she doesn't believe the project will be killed if the letter isn't submitted by Friday.

"The letter's not a do or die," Chastain said. "I think the commission would like to have that to show solidarity."

Calls for comment to a commission spokeswoman weren't returned May 5. Chastain believes the commission will support the project since $34 million in federal money has also been secured.

"I believe they see the magnitude," Chastain said.

Around 100 trains a day pass through the Colton Crossing, where Union Pacific tracks that run east and west intersect BNSF tracks that go north and south. For years a railroad grade-separation project has been discussed that would allow trains on both tracks to pass simultaneously.

The City Council approved a memorandum with Sanbag and both railroads May 4. Reports say the city would contribute $5.4 million toward almost $64 million in improvements the project would bring.

Several improvements would turn the entire city into a quiet zone, so trains can safely pass through the city without blowing whistles, unless there's an emergency, said City Manager Rod Foster. An underpass would be installed at Laurel Street so trains can pass through without disturbing traffic, the report says.

Tracks that run along the middle of Ninth Street, in residential neighborhoods, would be moved just east of Fogg Street, near M Street, to undeveloped land. This would allow a Union Pacific rail line that crosses the southbound 215 Freeway to be removed, which would save $9.5 million on the cost of the ongoing 215 widening project, the report says.


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