Alameda Corridor-East Project
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San Gabriel Valley Tribune
January 11, 2012

Traffic-relieving projects equal more jobs in 2012

Over the course of 2011 and moving into 2012, the Alameda Corridor-East (ACE) Construction Authority has been busy preparing several major rail-roadway grade separation projects for construction in 2012. Thanks to the allocation of $336.6 million in state bond funds in October, the largest single amount in California for a goods movement program, along with federal and local funds, the ACE Construction Authority can seek bids in 2012 for the construction of three major grade separation projects. Together, these projects will create more than 11,000 much-needed jobs over several years of construction in Los Angeles County, where average unemployment has been mired at 12 percent ? 4 percent higher than the national average.

Valued at more than $680 million, the three grade separation projects will be built in the Cities of El Monte, Industry and San Gabriel, and represent a significant public investment in transportation infrastructure for our region.

In El Monte, construction workers will build an underpass on Baldwin Avenue between Rose Avenue and Gidley Street with a bridge overhead for trains. Baldwin Avenue connects to Interstates 10 and 210 and is used by a significant number of trucks and cars, which are blocked when crossing gates are down for trains.

In the City of Industry near Rowland Heights, workers will build a six-lane underpass on Nogales Street between Gale and San Jose avenues, a bridge for trains and widen an existing traffic chokepoint where Gale Avenue and Walnut Drive North meet Nogales Street. Nogales Street is a busy thoroughfare with average daily traffic of 42,700 vehicles. Sixty trains per day traverse this congested and hazardous crossing which is ranked no. 5 in California on a statewide grade separation priority list.

In San Gabriel, a massive three-year construction project will lower the Union Pacific Railroad tracks in a trench through the city with bridges built at Ramona Street, Mission Road, Del Mar Avenue and San Gabriel Boulevard to allow pedestrians and vehicles to pass safely over the tracks. Providing grade separations at these four crossings will reduce congestion and improve safety for a cumulative average daily traffic of 89,700 cars and trucks.

In addition, the ACE grade separation projects will reduce emissions from idling cars and trucks forced to stop for passing trains, eliminate locomotive horn noise and help mitigate and sustain freight handled by the San Pedro Bay ports and transported by train to the rest of the country. Considering that Southern California?s ports handle more than 40% of our nation?s shipping containers, nearly 60% of which travel east by truck and rail through the San Gabriel Valley, there is compelling justification for ample public investment in our region?s freight infrastructure. And, with plans underway to improve rail facilities on and near the docks, more frequent and longer freight trains are projected to cross the San Gabriel Valley. By next year, the ACE Construction Authority will have completed or be under construction on grade separations at 14 crossings. Following a more than year-long evaluation of traffic and hazard conditions at the remaining crossings in the San Gabriel Valley, the proposed final ACE grade separation project list is scheduled to be adopted in early 2012. This will set the goal for completing the ACE program, which we are confident can be accomplished if we can secure sufficient funding with the continuing support of our local, state and federal representatives.

In addition to drawing on existing state and local programs, we will seek funding opportunities through multi-year programs proposed in federal surface transportation legislation introduced in Congress over the past several months. In the U.S. Senate, we support Sen. Barbara Boxer?s robust and bipartisan bill which proposes several promising funding programs for freight projects, including grade separations. Thanks to the efforts of our local, state and federal representatives and a well-managed funding and construction program that has been cited as a model, the ACE Construction Authority will continue to make progress on completing its program of grade separation projects for the benefit of our region and our nation.

Tim Spohn is chairman of the Board of Directors of the ACE Construction Authority and a city councilman for the City of Industry.