Friday, May 18, 2007

City officially breaks ground on separation

City officially breaks ground on separation
by Wes Bowers

Click photo to enlarge
Braving the cold and the wind, City of Fremont officials did more than just put shovels into dirt last Thursday at the groundbreaking ceremony for the Washington Grade Separation Project on Washington Boulevard near Osgood Road. City Manager Fred Diaz said the largest public works project in the city's history commenced, though it almost never got off the ground. "There really was a moment we thought this project wouldn't happen," he said. "Nine months ago we only had $80 million for the project, and we thought Ôwhere are we going to come up with the money for this?' And we did (come up with the money), with a lot of heart, dedication and tenacity." The transit project, estimated to cost $111 million, includes building an overpass at Washington Boulevard between Bruce Drive and Roberts Avenue, and an underpass at Paseo Padre Parkway between Shadow Brooke Common Road and Hancock Drive. The project's goal is to separate vehicle and pedestrian traffic from railroad traffic and crossings. In addition to an overpass and underpass, the project will also relocate nearly 1.5 miles of active Union Pacific railroad tracks eastward. Planned Bay Area Rapid Transit tracks in the Warm Springs District will also run southward toward Milpitas and San Jose. Jim Pierson, Fremont Transportation and Operations director, said the current Union Pacific tracks, which run down Osgood Road, will hopefully become BART tracks. The project is expected to take three years to complete, spanning 11 stages of construction. Of the $111 million, $68 million was obtained through grants from Alameda County Transportation Authority, Metropolitan Transportation Commission, Union Pacific Railroad, and Alameda County Congestion Management Authority, among several others. The remaining $43 million was put up by the city. "For the City of Fremont, to put in more than $40 million of their own money through redevelopment agency funds and other funding sources, is really amazing," Alameda County Supervisor Scott Haggerty said. "This will not only benefit Fremont, but the entire region. Grade separations are increasingly becoming necessary to link Alameda County with Silicon Valley." Tom Blalock, Fremont's representative on the BART Board of Directors, said BART staff is working "feverishly" to get a Warm Springs station together. "The number of folks we'll have at the (existing) Fremont BART when we extend will drop from about 16,000 to 12,000 people a day, which will be great," he said. "And Washington Hospital will breathe a sigh of relief as parking pressure will be gone." Mayor Bob Wasserman said while last Thursday was an exciting day for the city, there is still a long way to go. "This project will not occur over night," he said. "Over the next three years, community members will see many changes unfold as construction activities begin, so we ask for your patience and understanding."

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