Construction to Begin on Airport Boulevard Bridge over Thermal Train Tracks
THERMAL – The Riverside County Transportation Department will break ground on an overpass at the intersection of Airport and Grapefruit boulevards in Thermal, a $29.5 million project to improve traffic and safety at the railroad crossing.
Supervisor John J. Benoit invites the public to the groundbreaking ceremony of the Airport Boulevard/Grapefruit Boulevard Grade Separation Project, at 10 a.m. Jan. 21 at the northwest corner of Grapefruit Boulevard and Airport Boulevard in Thermal.
“This is one of the most significant projects to take shape in Thermal, which has seen more than $82 million invested by the county in infrastructure to support the community and further business development,” said Supervisor John J. Benoit. “This overpass will greatly improve rail safety, response times by emergency vehicles, air quality and help make the Jacqueline Cochran Regional Airport more accessible and vital.”
Airport Boulevard, which serves Thermal and the cities of Coachella and La Quinta, is currently one lane in each direction. The project will construct a four-lane bridge, with the capacity to ultimately accommodate six lanes, raising Airport Boulevard over the Union Pacific Railroad tracks and Grapefruit Boulevard.
To maintain access to Airport Boulevard from Grapefruit Boulevard and the adjacent properties, Palm Street will be extended to the north from the intersection of Airport Boulevard to intersect with Grapefruit Boulevard. The residential properties along the south side of Airport Boulevard will be accessed by a new frontage road adjacent to the raised Airport Boulevard.
Each day, 71 lengthy freight trains shipping goods from West Coast ports pass through the eastern Coachella Valley. At this railroad crossing, gates are down for an average of 74 minutes per day. Diverting traffic around this crossing will improve rail safety, response times by emergency vehicles and air quality associated with idling vehicles.
Funding for the project comes from $12.8 million in state Proposition 1B Trade Corridor Improvement funds, $11.9 million in local funds as the local share from the Coachella Valley Association of Governments, $4 million from county redevelopment funds and $782,000 from utility companies.
Work has started on the site to relocate utility lines prior to construction. By March 2014, construction will be in full force for the next 28 months, completing in July 2016.
Airport Boulevard, between Desert Cactus Drive and Polk Street, will be closed through most of the project’s duration. Traffic will be detoured through Avenue 52 and Avenue 62 off SR 86.