The Department of Transportation signed an implementing agreement for the big Colton Crossing project to use a $33.8 million stimulus grant to untangle a congested rail junction about 70 miles east of the ports of Los Angeles and Long Beach.
Also called “Alameda Corridor East,” the plan calls for more than $198 million to be spent to eliminate a major crossing point for the mainlines of BNSF Railway and Union Pacific Railroad – the two largest rail freight carriers in North America.
The DOT calls this “one of the most significant choke points for freight” moving in and out of the giant California ports.
Along with BNSF and UP freight trains, Amtrak and Metrolink passenger trains use Colton Crossing in San Bernardino County, which at its peak in 2006 handled 129 trains a day. Even in recession year 2008 more than 110 trains used the junction daily, “making it one of the nation's busiest street-level rail crossings,” the DOT said.
With that pace of activity, trains line up for miles and wait for a crossing window, slowing rail traffic and spewing diesel exhaust from idling locomotives. Roughly 60 percent of train volume there is port related, and the backed up trains also cause delays for motorists at 24 rail-highway crossings.
The project will lift two sets of UP tracks over those of BNSF. Although the federal grant was one of 51 awarded last February from a discretionary grant pool under the stimulus law, an implementing contract accord had to be negotiated with various parties to the project.
Now, said LaHood, "this money will help to shorten the time needed for goods to get to markets all over the world and improve safety for motorists and train operators alike."
Federal Highway Administrator Victor Mendez said it will also have some other ripple effects. “Given the economic significance of this route in and out of the nation's biggest ports, this project will create jobs for hundreds of workers, reduce local traffic congestion and greatly improve the quality of life for area residents," he said.
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