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ARTICLES AND PRESS RELEASES

San Gabriel Valley Tribune
January 29, 2012
By Ben Baeder, Staff Writer


Construction agency to begin $100 million Nogales project in Spring




Cars wait on Nogales Street for a train to pass by on the Union Pacific Railroad tracks near San Jose Avenue. Photo courtesy of Alameda Corridor-East Construction Authority.

INDUSTRY - The city, the county and a public construction agency are close to launching a nearly $100 million project to widen Gale Avenue and Walnut Drive and build a railroad underpass at Nogales Street.

The endeavor will take three years to complete, and will require the closure of Nogales Street for two years, forcing drivers onto a detour.

The project is one many grade separation in the heart of the San Gabriel Valley being built by the Alameda Corridor-East Construction Authority (ACE) to alleviate traffic congestion at train crossings.

About 52 trains cross the Nogales Street each day. And officials have counted seven collisions between trains and vehicles at the intersection over the last 10 years.

ACE - the agency leading construction of the project - is wrapping up the last of nearly 40 property acquisitions needed to start the project, said Rick Richmond, ACE's executive director. Richmond hopes to start work in spring, but ACE likely won't close Nogales until sometime in 2013.

The first year-long phase of the project will involve widening a stretch of Gale and Walnut, which are the same street - west of Nogales, the street is called Gale; east of Nogales, it's called Walnut. The road runs just south of the railroad tracks.

Gale/Walnut tends to bottleneck near Nogales at rush hour because it narrows from four lanes to two lanes for about one mile.

During peak hours, more than 1,150 cars per hour try to squeeze onto the narrow road, according to statistics from ACE.

"The strategy is before you get Nogales closed, you've got to get that widening done," Richmond said. "Because when you close Nogales, you're going to get a lot of spillover to other streets." ACE will then move on to the underpass project, which will take two years to complete.

Nogales will be closed and the 42,680 cars that daily use the street will be taken on a detour to the west.

"We had to do a detour," Richmond said. "If we don't do that detour, the impact on parallel streets - Fullerton Road to the west and Fairway to the east - would be substantial."

While the project involved ACE buying almost 40 pieces of land, most of the takes were small slivers of properties, Richmond said. Only two complete properties were acquired: a closed gas station and a vacant construction warehouse.

The warehouse was taken to make room for ACE to move a major sewer trunk line, Richmond said. The project has been a long time coming, Industry City Engineer John Ballas said.

The county and Industry teamed up nearly a decade ago, but struggled to get the project going. They recently teamed with ACE and secured more money for construction, Ballas said.

ACE is an agency created by a coalition of the county and area cities to reduce traffic conflict between trains and cars.

The underpass and road widening are estimated to cost a combined $96.7 million.

Money from the project is coming from federal transportation funds, Industry, state transportation funds and the Metropolitan Transportation Authority.