Fresno drivers have waited for months for the opening of the new Tuolumne Street bridge over railroad tracks in downtown Fresno, but problems with the concrete bridge surface will keep them waiting a little longer.
The California High-Speed Rail Authority acknowledged Thursday that routine tests and measurements on the bridge revealed problems with the concrete on the eastern approach to the bridge. Lisa Marie Alley, a spokeswoman for the authority, said contractor Tutor Perini / Zachry / Parsons is being required by the state and city of Fresno to correct the finish of the bridge deck to meet smoothness requirements.
Alley said there are no structural concerns with the bridge, adding that the problems are confined to the surface on which cars will drive.
Tutor Perini / Zachry / Parsons is the prime contractor for a 32-mile construction segment of the high-speed rail route from the north edge of Madera to the south edge of Fresno – the first contract for what is ultimately proposed as a 520-mile, $64 billion bullet-train line linking San Francisco and Los Angeles by way of the San Joaquin Valley. The consortium of companies from Southern California and Texas was the low bidder for the work and was awarded a $1 billion contract in mid-2013.
The old Tuolumne Street bridge over the Union Pacific Railroad freight tracks was demolished in early 2016 because it did not have enough clearance for the high-speed line and its overhead electric lines alongside the UPRR tracks. The rail authority originally anticipated that the new, higher bridge would be completed by the end of the year. But a wet winter contributed to delays, and forecasts for completion and opening in May and June slipped past. Two weeks ago, the agency said it was aiming for a mid-July opening.
Scott Mozier, director of Fresno’s public works department, said it’s not unusual for major construction projects to run into problems as completion draws near. “As you get close to the end, you have a punch list of items, things to repair or correct,” he said Thursday. “I think if we were talking about a real major issue, we’d be months away.”
Mozier said it is important for the concrete bridge deck to be properly surfaced and smoothed since cars will be driving directly on the concrete – as with highway bridges – rather than on asphalt.
“We’ve been involved in looking at the work, and we have every reason to believe from the authority that they are targeting to open the bridge by the end of July,” Mozier said.
The old bridge served a one-way Tuolumne Street on which drivers could only drive eastbound – a counter to one-way-westbound Stanislaus Street a block to the north. But Tuolumne Street and the bridge are being converted to two-way traffic. When the bridge opens, Tuolumne Street will initially be a two-way street between E Street and Van Ness Avenue. Eventually, as signals are installed and the road restriped, Tuolumne will be two-way all the way east to P Street, Mozier said.
The Stanislaus Street bridge will eventually be demolished because it, like the old Tuolumne bridge, doesn’t provide enough clearance for the high-speed rail line. It will not be replaced.