Monday, November 02, 2009

Pico Rivera kicks off grade separation project

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Robert Perez was out riding his bike Friday, but like a line of cars behind him, he got stuck on Passons Boulevard at Slauson Avenue when a freight train stopped on the tracks ahead, according to The Whittier, Calif., Daily News. The scenario happens almost daily, officials said. Passenger and freight trains cross the intersection on two sets of tracks at frequent intervals, and once the railroad company, BNSF, adds a third track, train crossings will only increase, officials said.

To cope with growing train traffic, the city is moving forward with a grade separation project. Trains will pass over the busy, two-lane street on a bridge, officials said, separating vehicles and pedestrians from railroads and eliminating the need for locomotives to blow their whistles.

"That would be good," Perez said as he waited for the train to start moving again. He lives nearby and said the loud train whistles are a nuisance.

Officials held a groundbreaking ceremony for the project Oct. 30 in the parking lot of the Rivera Villa apartment complex, which is now vacant and will be torn down to make way for the bridge.

"There could be up to 100 extra trains when they put in that third rail," said City Manager Chuck Fuentes. "This is the probably biggest public works project in the history of the city."

The $43.4-million project, paid for mostly by federal and state funds, will begin the week of Nov. 2 with demolition of surrounding buildings and should be complete in about 18 to 20 months, officials said.

The project is part of the Alameda Corridor-East Trade Corridor, a larger effort to create grade separations along railway and street crossings for safety, environmental and traffic congestion relief purposes, officials said.

"We have been fighting for many years in Washington to be able to have additional grade separations," said Congresswoman Grace Napolitano, D-Santa Fe Springs, who said she has 54 grade separation projects in the 38th Congressional District. "We're getting one more project off the books; now we need to move on to another one."

There are 130 grade separation projects either identified or under way throughout Los Angeles, San Bernardino, Riverside and Orange counties, costing a total of $3 billion, officials said.

"It's imperative that something like this gets completed," said Mayor Pro-Tem Bob Archuleta. "Safety has to be at the forefront."

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