The City of Riverside is trisected by two transcontinental rail lines, the Burlington Northern and Santa Fe Railroad (BNSF), and the Union Pacific Railroad (UPRR). These two rail lines carry over 75% of the freight handled by the Ports of Long Beach and Los Angeles through the City of Riverside. There are 26 mainline crossings where the railroads intersect with City streets and railroad grade separations are a great way to minimize their unfavorable effects.
Every day approximately 128 trains pass through the city and have a significant impact on traffic conditions and public safety. At-grade crossings create traffic delays and some of the busiest crossings have an average of 3 hours of delay while trains are passing. Some crossings have up to 6 hours delay while the crossing gates are lowered. Police, Fire and EMT officials reported 491 delays between 2002 and 2007 averaging 3 minutes each and some as long as 21 minutes.
In addition to the delays for emergency responders and the inconvenience to city residents and businesses, idling vehicles stopped by trains contribute over 500 tons of air pollution annually by 2030 here in Riverside.
Grade separation projects eliminate these issues by redirecting the vehicle, pedestrian and bicycle traffic above or below the busy railroad tracks. Construction of overpasses and underpasses are costly, but essential, to improve our quality of life in the city. Of the more than 70 railroad crossings in the City of Riverside, 11 are existing grade separations and 26 are primary crossings on a grade separation priority list.
Currently two railroad grade separation projects are under construction, Iowa Avenue and Streeter Avenue. The construction for one more, Riverside Avenue, is expected to start in late 2013. Three railroad grade separation projects have been completed since 2005: Jurupa Avenue, Columbia Avenue and Magnolia Avenue.
These challenging projects are becoming a reality under the leadership of the Mayor and City Council. Their proactive efforts in communicating the importance of grade separations to our representatives in Sacramento and Washington, DC are helping the city to gain significant external funding. This will allow the City of Riverside to construct these projects in a timely manner so residents can enjoy improved safety and reduced congestion.