The Federal Railroad Administration (FRA) announced a $1.5 million grant to the State of California to fund the design of a bridge that will carry vehicular traffic on Rice Avenue over railroad tracks in Oxnard.
Currently, the Union Pacific tracks, which Metrolink, Amtrak and freight trains utilize, intersect with Rice Avenue. On Feb. 24, 2015, a Metrolink train derailed when it struck an abandoned truck near the crossing, killing the engineer and injuring 33 others. NTSB is currently investigating the derailment.
“This grant will be instrumental in helping to reduce accidents and fatalities at our nation’s railroad crossings and ensuring that the rail system is modernized to meet future needs,” said U.S. Transportation Secretary Anthony Foxx. “Through a combination of grants, education, and enforcement, we can — and will — achieve our goal of preventing accidents and deaths at railroad crossings.”
The project is one of nine rail projects in eight states selected to receive nearly $10 million to upgrade and increase the safety of railroad crossings along energy routes under the Railroad Safety Grants for the Safe Transportation of Energy Products (STEP) by Rail Program. FRA received 34 eligible applications requesting five times the $10 million available for the program, or $50.8 million.
The California Department of Transportation will design a six-lane bridge, including sidewalks and bike lanes, on Rice Avenue over Union Pacific tracks and State Route 34 and close the existing rail crossing. The bridge will stretch approximately 800 feet north and south of the existing crossing, which will be closed.
Each year, train traffic through this area includes 1,820 Metrolink commuter trains, 3,120 Amtrak intercity trains and 4,368 Union Pacific trains. Rice Avenue is also a primary truck route to the Port of Hueneme with an average of 35,000 vehicles daily. Since 1976, there have been 13 accidents that have resulted in one injury and two fatalities, in addition to the February 2015 derailment.
“The safest crossing is one that doesn’t exist, and this grant gets us closer to closing a crossing where thousands of trains and cars pass each other every day,” said FRA Administrator Sarah E. Feinberg. “By separating Rice Avenue from the tracks below, we will increase safety for both rail passengers and drivers and increase Los Angeles’ transportation system reliability.”