Supervisor: Railroad Grade Separation Project Severely Impacting Businesses

City News Service Pristine Villarreal

RIVERSIDE (CNS) – The Board of Supervisors Tuesday signed off on a budget increase for a railroad grade separation project in Jurupa Valley that has suffered repeated setbacks, which one supervisor worried would continue to negatively impact businesses in the middle of the construction zone.

“The businesses over there are hurting,” Riverside County Supervisor Karen Spiegel said. “It’s unfair to them to wait … These businesses have not felt supported enough, and I think we need to reach out more.”

The challenges facing stores and restaurants in the area of Felspar Street and Jurupa Road was raised when Department of Transportation Director Mark Lancaster approached the board to explain the need for a $3 million increase in appropriations for the Jurupa Road/Union Pacific Railroad Grade Separation Project.

The project was approved in July 2021, but progress on it has been slow, trapping multiple businesses in the construction zone, where traffic is diverted and access points are limited.

Lancaster sought the additional funding due to delay-related overhead costs accumulated by Watsonville-based Granite Construction Inc., which was originally awarded $64.79 million for the work. The funds are managed by the county but provided by the state, according to county documents.

In the previous 18 months, the county Department of Transportation has asked and received appropriations over and above the original contract amount totaling $3.66 million, not including the latest $3 million approval.

Lancaster said one of the complications with moving forward on construction of the new rail bridge is communication with Union Pacific, which is headquartered in Omaha, Nebraska, requiring details to be ironed out via phone calls and e-mail.

Spiegel said two other three small businesses have already closed because of the construction disruptions.

“We don’t like the delays anymore than the businesses do,” Lancaster said. “We want to try to make those businesses whole and compensate them accordingly.”

He said that the Department of Transportation is working on establishing a relief fund and identifying other means of assisting impacted brick-and-mortar outlets.

“The intersection where people go to patronize those businesses has been closed because it’s right where that bridge is going to be built,” Lancaster said.

The grade separation project is intended to remove rail traffic from vehicular and pedestrian traffic, ultimately permitting uninterrupted movement of people and cars, without them having to completely stop when freight and commuter trains pass the location.

Copyright 2023, City News Service, Inc.

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