Last week, Metro’s board of directors approved the implementation of a long-planned grade separation. The $ 156 million Rosecrans / Marquardt level separation project will build a new bridge to safely transport motor traffic over existing BNSF rail lines, also used by Metrolink and Amtrak – and slated for use by California High-Speed Rail when the project expands to Anaheim.
The Rosecrans / Marquardt project is located in the town of Santa Fe Springs, along the eastern edge of LA County, near Orange County.
The existing intersection of avenue Rosecrans and avenue Marquardt has a level crossing. With less frequent trains, traffic is declining on Rosecrans. In 2016, Metro’s The Source reported that the California Public Utilities Commission (CPUC) classified the Rosecrans / Marquardt intersection as the most dangerous crossing in California due to 22 vehicle and train accidents between 2013 and 2015. These accidents left four dead and six injured. .
The new grade separation will benefit both rail passengers and drivers; both will be safer and experience greater reliability.
The Metro project will add a new viaduct on Rosecrans Avenue and new connecting roads. The project will cut off the relatively uncrowded Marquardt Avenue, which is already interrupted by nearby streams (Coyote Creek and its tributary La CaÃ±ada Verde Creek) and the 5 Freeway.
The Metro staff report notes that there is an approved plan for cycle lanes on Rosecrans, but the project construction only makes space for these cycle lanes, without actually implementing them.
According to the staff report, the final design of the project has been completed. Preliminary demolition work began in early 2020. Eight industrial buildings are being demolished. Four buildings have already been cleared, and the remaining demolitions will be completed by January 2022, when construction will begin. The new flyover should open in 2023.
Metro brought together many local, state and federal funding sources for the project. Rosecrans / Marquardt received a $ 15 million federal TIGER (Transportation Investment Generating Economic Recovery) grant awarded in 2016. At that time, the project was expected to cost $ 137 million and be completed in January 2021.
Local funding includes $ 26 million of Metro’s Measure R sales tax.
State funding includes CPUC and SB 1 (gasoline tax) funds. The project’s largest source of funding – $ 77 million – is the California High-Speed ââRail Authority (CAHSRA) which allocates funds from the Prop 1A voter-approved rail bond.
Some lawmakers, including Assembly Speaker Anthony Rendon and Assembly Member Laura Friedman, have lobbied to divert funding for the central valley spine bullet train being built and focus instead on ” areas where it will meet the greatest needs, including the Bay Area and Los Angeles. âWhile there are many reasons for finding this surge spurious, one is that ACSSRA is already invest in rail improvements in the Bay Area and LA. CASARA has funded several rail improvements in LA, including Rosecrans / Marquardt and Union Station passageways.
In related news, last week Metro’s board approved a motion – by board members Kathryn Barger, Ara Najarian and Hilda Solis – that sets a new agency policy to prioritize to “the rapid delivery of additional strategic high-speed trains to California (CHSR) investment projects in the Los Angeles County rail corridors that currently serve and / or will ever serve regional and intercity railroads … if and when new sources of state and federal funding are becoming available. “This would include Metro drop projects such as Rosecrans / Marquardt and Doran Street and Broadway / Brazil Grade Separation. New sources of funding could include federal funds for infrastructure as well as the expected state budget surplus.
In his words [meeting video â starting at 6:28:00] Last week, Supervisor Barger was quick to steer her Metro movement away from the efforts of Rendon and Friedman. Barger said Metro’s motion was designed to be âcompletely separate from the ongoing debates over remaining Prop 1A funds. We are not targeting central California money.
Barger represents the communities of North LA County including Santa Clarita, Palmdale and Lancaster, which are served by the Metrolink Antelope Valley Line commuter train and the High Desert Mixed Use Corridor where funding for a canceled highway project is expected to be headed to the high speed train.
Barger called for improvements to the Metrolink Antelope Valley line – some of which also received approval from Metro’s board of directors last week. Board of Directors approved Final Environmental Impact Report (EIR) certification for Antelope Valley line service and capacity improvement projects [staff report]. This project has three components:
- Balboa Double Track Extension – just over a mile of new double track between Balboa Boulevard and Sierra Highway (between Sylmar and Santa Clarita – in the city of LA)
- Canyon Siding Extension – a mile and a half of new dual track above and below Santa Clarita Station, plus additional station upgrades
- Lancaster Terminal Upgrades – extension of existing train stopover facilities, as well as additional station upgrades
Last week’s Barger motion could be used to get more railroad improvement projects, similar to Rosecrans / Marquardt, ready to go. The motion helps position Metro to receive more federal and state infrastructure funds to improve Southern California’s rail infrastructure and prepare for the future bullet train.