August 28, 2013

Calif. rail crossing project delivered under budget, ahead of schedule

Amtrak California

Amtrak California
Caltrans and the San Bernardino Associated Governments (SBAG) announced Colton Crossing, a project that will unlock delays at a major rail crossing in Southern California, has been delivered significantly under budget and ahead of schedule.

Original estimates calculated the project would cost about $202 million and be finished in 2014. Thanks to cooperation between Caltrans and SBAG, innovative construction methods and a competitive marketplace that resulted in much lower bids than expected, the project wrapped up eight months ahead of schedule for $93 million.

“Not only will this project improve safety and reliability for passenger and freight trains, it will also improve air quality and reduce congestion on the streets and highways of the Inland Empire,” said Caltrans Director Malcolm Dougherty.

Transportation officials estimate the project will deliver $241 million in travel time savings and reduce greenhouse gas emissions by 34,000 tons annually.

Colton Crossing was first constructed in 1883, and nearly 130 years later virtually all trains entering or leaving Southern California use the at-grade rail-to-rail crossing, which was a major cause of congestion on commuter and freight rail lines.

A new elevated 1.4-mile-long overpass has now removed the chokepoint that existed where the Burlington Northern Santa Fe mainline crossed Union Pacific Railway tracks in Colton. Putting the UP tracks above the BNSF line allows both railroads to use the tracks safely and eliminate waits as crossing trains pass.

The need to separate this historical crossing was crucial not only to California’s economy, but to the nation's as well. Nearly half of all U.S. imports flow through California ports and travel by trucks and trains across the state to the rest of the nation. The amount of cargo handled at the Ports of Los Angeles and Long Beach is expected to more than double by 2020.

The project was a partnership between Caltrans, SBAC, the City of Colton, UP and BNSF Railway. Funding was provided by state and federal sources, including $34 million from the Recovery Act and $41 million from Proposition 1B, a 2006 voter-approved transportation bond. To date, more than $16 billion in Proposition 1B funds have been put to work statewide. The remaining funding was provided by UP and BNSF.

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