On October 24, transportation and city officials marked the completion of the final two underpasses in the O.C. Bridges program, which during the last five years built a total of seven bridges and underpasses to separate car and pedestrian traffic from the busy Burlington Northern Santa Fe (BNSF) freight rail line running through Fullerton, Anaheim and Placentia.
The event at the new State College Boulevard underpass celebrated a major milestone for Orange County transportation with the completion of the $663 million O.C. Bridges program. OCTA attendees included Chairman Michael Hennessey, Directors Tim Shaw and Tom Tait, and CEO Darrell Johnson. Assembly members Sharon Quirk-Silva and Steven Choi along with Fullerton Mayor Bruce Whitaker were also on hand to celebrate the major milestone.
Each overpass and underpass constructed improves travel times, cuts air pollution by eliminating the need for cars to idle at railroad gates, and enhances safety in the community.
At least 70 trains travel the busy BNSF rail line each day, with the number of trains projected to increase to 130 trains each day by 2030. Without the bridges and underpasses, a train would block one of the intersections every 10 minutes. Some of the trains are up to a mile long.
“Nobody likes having to sit in their car waiting for a train to pass. Now they don’t have to and that’s a good reason to celebrate, as each of these projects enhances safety and speeds up commute times,” said OCTA Chairman Michael Hennessey. “We greatly appreciate everybody’s patience during these several years of construction and we’re excited that the now get to experience all the benefits.”
Both Fullerton projects, as with each of the seven O.C. Bridges projects, is significantly funded by Measure M, the county’s half-cent sales tax for transportation improvements renewed by Orange County voters in 2006.
Measure M funding accounts for about $157 million of the O.C. Bridges program, which helped leverage state and federal transportation to fund the rest. State funding paid the largest portion of building the grade separations, funding $262 million of the program.
The underpass at Raymond Avenue, which cost approximately $124.8 million, has already partially opened to traffic, with one lane open in each direction.
Finishing touches, including electrical work, landscaping and final striping, are being completed at the State College Boulevard underpass. It cost approximately $97 million and is scheduled to open to traffic November 1.
Through the O.C. Bridges program, previous underpasses have opened at Placentia Avenue and Kraemer Boulevard, as well as bridges over the rail line at Lakeview Avenue, Orangethorpe Avenue, and Tustin Avenue/Rose Drive. Each of those projects is near the border of Anaheim and Placentia. To learn more about O.C. Bridges, click here.