Drivers in downtown Fresno expected to start using a new Tuolumne Street bridge over future high-speed rail tracks by the end of last year.
A wetter-than-normal winter, however, contributed to delays and pushed the opening beyond target dates in May and June. But the California High-Speed Rail Authority now says it won’t be long now – and this time, it looks like authority leaders mean it. They hope to cut a ribbon in mid-July to celebrate opening the bridge between Broadway and G streets.
There are only a few final steps to get the structure open for traffic, including striping the pavement, placing signs and installing fencing and handrails, said Toni Tinoco, a spokeswoman for the rail agency.
The old Tuolumne Street bridge, which was closed and demolished in early 2016, carried one-way traffic eastbound over the Union Pacific Railroad freight tracks. But it was not high enough to accommodate the electrical lines that will eventually provide power to high-speed trains adjacent to the freight tracks. So it is being replaced with a new and higher bridge that will accommodate two-way traffic flowing across downtown Fresno between F and P streets.
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The Tuolumne Street bridge is among the first substantial, and highly visible, construction projects within the very first construction stage for the statewide bullet-train system.
The bridge is among the first substantial, and highly visible, building projects within the first construction stage for the statewide bullet-train system. And it was also one of the first major subjects of gripes from motorists and others trying to make their way from one side of the UP tracks to the other.
But it’s far from the only headache confronting Fresno drivers. On nearby Highway 180 at the north edge of downtown, contractors recently changed the traffic lanes above the Union Pacific tracks as nighttime work happens to dig a trench to carry the high-speed tracks under the freeway. And at Belmont and Palm avenues, utility-relocation work has caused different lane closures for the past couple of weeks.
In the Chinatown district just west of downtown, Mono Street has been closed at G and H streets, creating a detour of drivers to nearby Ventura Street to get across the train tracks. And work should be starting soon for construction of a new underpass to carry Tulare Street under the UPRR tracks between G and H streets. That construction is expected to close Tulare Street for about two years.
At the south end of Fresno, American Avenue is closed between Cedar and Maple avenues for construction of a new overcrossing that will carry traffic over the high-speed rail line as well as the existing BNSF Railway freight tracks. That closure is expected to last for about a year.
On Highway 99, work continues on the relocation of the freeway between Ashlan and Clinton avenues. The demolition of the Clinton Avenue overpass will eventually be rebuilt, but in the meantime, the southbound Clinton Avenue off-ramp northbound on-ramp from Clinton Avenue are closed through the end of this year.
All of the Fresno projects, as well as work going in in Madera County, are part of the first 32-mile construction contract for high-speed rail. Two more contracts have been awarded for work in southern Fresno, Kings, Tulare and Kern counties to form what is supposed to be the backbone of a $64 billion, 520-mile rail line connecting San Francisco and Los Angeles by way of the San Joaquin Valley.