Tired of failed grants, officials try to set up new funding formula for rail bridge replacement in Calif.

Written by RT&S Staff
rail bridges
The First Street railroad bridge runs over a massive BNSF rail yard.
BNSF Railway

The collapse of the First Street railroad bridge in San Bernardino County, Calif., would be catastrophic, and just over the last few months two incidents have flirted with that possibility.

In early January a car crashed into the bridge, which has been structurally deficient and functionally obsolete for years, causing the bridge to close. A few weeks later the span was disabled again when officials discovered more damage from the accident. The First Street railroad bridge is a major access point to the northern portion of Barstow that runs over a BNSF intermodal yard.

On April 15 the Mountain/Desert Policy Committee, a sub-group of the San Bernardino County Transportation Authority that recommends how to spend transportation tax funds, approved a move to advance four actions for final consideration by SBCTA’s Board of Directors. Officials have tried to ignite a bridge replacement project for years, but failed federal grants have put it on hold time and time again.

Most of the actions essentially shift the way a replacement bridge project will be funded. The first action alters the sources of funding currently defined in an agreement originally passed in 2015 with cuts of $3.5 million to federal funds and $1.6 million to county funds, and an increase of $2.3 million to city funds.

The second action places the responsibility for the construction phase to the county agency and all other phases involving design and regulatory clearances are to be handled by the city. This action again changes the funding formula, with cuts of $2.1 million to federal funds and almost $500,000 to county funds and increases of over $890,000 to city funds and $305,000 to state funds.

A third action allows the SBCTA executive director to negotiate and finalize a contract and related agreements with Caltrans setting the terms under which the state will reimburse the county agency for construction costs using federal funds.

The fourth action allows the SBCTA to release an invitation for bids to contractors in the construction process, pending separate notification from Caltrans that federal authorization has been given for bid solicitations.

A new project schedule also has been established, with the construction phase starting on July 15, 2022. SBCTA would need to award a construction contract by that date.

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