Third Street Grade Crossing Delayed For Quiet Zones

By DUG BEGLEY
The Press-Enterprise

Plans for an underpass or overpass along Third Street in downtown Riverside at a railroad crossing will be shelved until city officials can come up with their share of the $40 million price tag.

Riverside County Transportation Commission officials, acting on the city’s request, are scheduled to vote Wednesday in favor of removing the project from the region’s list of state-funded grade separations. Thirteen grade separations in the county received more than $167 million from California’s Prop. 1B transportation bond program that voters approved in 2006.

But the money came with conditions, such as commitments to come up with some of the costs with local funds, and start construction by 2013. On both counts, city officials said, the $40 million Third Street project fell behind.

Kurt Miller / The Press-Enterprise
A BNSF train stops traffic at Third Street near Highway 91 on Friday. Riverside is putting off a planned underpass at the tracks because it lacks adequate funding.

“It was never clear that there would be sufficient money to fund the project,” Councilman Mike Gardner said. “Some monies had been allocated for the project, but it clearly was nowhere near enough to fund it.”

Rather than commit more of the $15.7 million local officials would need to contribute, Third Street will be pulled from the list, pending local transportation commission approval and the agreement of the California Transportation Commission.

Complexities with the construction of the crossing — near Highway 91 and the Riverside Canal — contributed to the decision to delay it.

“It’s a tight fit,” said John Standiford, deputy director of the county transportation commission.

Two nearby historic buildings, the former ET Wall Packing House and the Blue Banner Packing House, also would have posed challenges for designing the underpass or overpass, said Councilman Andy Melendrez.

The districts represented by Gardner and Melendrez are divided by Third Street.

In many neighborhoods, both council members said, quieting train noise and improving safety at crossings is a higher priority. Focusing on those upgrades — which will allow trains to avoid blowing their horns — means more neighborhoods will have less noise.

The planned Perris Valley Line extension of Metrolink service through eastern Riverside will add to the number of trains, city officials said, and mean quiet zones are needed in other neighborhoods as well.

City officials have other overpass and underpass projects involved in the state program. An overpass at Columbia Avenue north of downtown opened last year. Workers are currently building an underpass along Magnolia Avenue, and officials plan to start work on an Iowa Avenue overpass next year.

None of the remaining grade separations are in jeopardy of being removed, Standiford said.

Reach Dug Begley at 951-368-9475 or dbegley@PE.com

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