Work is beginning this week on the demolition of the Tuolumne Street bridge over the Union Pacific Railroad tracks in downtown Fresno. But don’t expect to see any explosions or wrecking balls involved.
Instead, crews from demolition contractor J. Kroeker Inc. are taking a delicate, deliberate approach to the six-week process. The bridge, which Fresno public works director Scott Mozier said dates to the late 1940s or early 1950s, is coming down to be replaced by a new bridge with a higher clearance over the freight rail tracks as well as new high-speed passenger train tracks and the overhead electric lines that will power the trains.
The Kroeker company is a subcontractor hired by Tutor Perini/Zachry/Parsons, the construction consortium that is the prime contractor for the California High-Speed Rail Authority’s first 29-mile construction section between Fresno and Madera. In recent days, workers have been preparing for the demolition by installing “falsework” on the underside of the bridge to keep debris from falling onto the tracks. Kroeker project manager Brian Herrick said the work has taken several days longer than expected because his crews have to stop work every time a freight train passes by.
We’re about two or three days behind schedule because of the trains. We have to pull back every time a train comes through.
Brian Herrick, project manager for demolition subcontractor J. Kroeker Inc.
Once that falsework is completed, Herrick said, the demolition will be a sort of “reverse construction,” starting by removing the pavement and deck on top of the bridge, then removing the support beans, and finally tearing down the reinforced concrete support columns.
The old one-way bridge included two eastbound traffic lanes; by the end of this year, it will be a two-way street with only one lane in each direction.
The bridge demolition and replacement represent the first major construction work happening in downtown Fresno for the high-speed train project, said Diana Gomez, the rail authority’s Central Valley regional director. By the end of this month, Gomez said, crews will begin work on a trench that will eventually carry the high-speed tracks under Belmont Avenue and Highway 180 north of downtown Fresno. Workers have already started marking out the path of an elevated viaduct south of downtown Fresno to take the high-speed trains up and over Golden State Boulevard, Cedar Avenue, Highway 99 and North Avenue as the tracks head south toward Hanford along the BNSF Railway line. “We’re looking at the start of work there in the first week of February, if not sooner,” Gomez said.
By mid-February, she added, workers are expected to begin clearing land for a pair of roadway overpasses on Avenue 12 east of Madera, one for the BNSF Railway tracks, another for the nearby high-speed train tracks.