High-Speed Rail

Road relocation will keep this homeless mission near downtown and allow it to expand

G Street relocation for high-speed rail and Fresno Rescue Mission

The Fresno Rescue Mission near downtown Fresno has moved across G Street to make way for California's high-speed rail project. Part of G Street will be realigned 90 feet to the east, and the mission will take over the abandoned roadway property.
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The Fresno Rescue Mission near downtown Fresno has moved across G Street to make way for California's high-speed rail project. Part of G Street will be realigned 90 feet to the east, and the mission will take over the abandoned roadway property.

The California High-Speed Rail Authority will spend more than more than $5 million to relocate a 2,000-foot stretch of G Street near downtown Fresno to accommodate the relocation of a homeless shelter.

The Fresno Rescue Mission, which has been located on the east side of G Street since 1965, has been forced to relocate to temporary facilities across the street because part of its old property is in the path of high-speed rail construction through downtown. Moving the street east by about 90 feet will allow the city of Fresno to abandon the old G Street alignment so it can be used as a permanent site for the Rescue Mission.

The rail authority already had a $350,000 agreement with the city to design and engineer the relocation of G Street between Santa Clara Street and East California Avenue. At its meeting Tuesday in San Jose, the authority's board voted to add $5.2 million to the contract to cover the cost of construction and for relocation of Pacific Gas & Electric Co. utilities. The agreement includes a completion date of Dec. 31, 2020.

G Street HSR realignment.JPG
A portion of G Street near downtown Fresno will be moved east by 90 feet and the old pavement abandoned for the Fresno Rescue Mission. The mission was forced to temporarily relocate to the west side of G Street because its old site was in the path of high-speed rail construction. Tim Sheehan The Fresno Bee

When it became clear that the high-speed train line would cut through the mission's property and its 33,000-square-foot main building, "originally there was a concept of moving the whole mission," Fresno Rescue Mission CEO Don Eskes said. "They were taking a significant part of our main building, which had our chapel, kitchen, offices, dormitories and classrooms."

But finding a new site proved challenging. "First, this is where the population is that we serve," Eskes said of the neighborhood south of Ventura Street and the Chinatown district. "Second, everyone thinks there should be a rescue mission, but nobody wants it in their backyard."

So a fallback plan emerged. By moving the short stretch of G Street eastward to flank the future high-speed rail line, the city would be free to abandon the old right of way to the rescue mission for construction of a new permanent home.

Such a plan moves the rescue mission farther west, getting it away from the high-speed-rail line.

The mission broke ground in April 2017 on temporary buildings across the street, both north and south of an elevated portion of Highway 41. The physical move of equipment, supplies and operations took place over about four weeks and was completed Monday, Eskes said. In 2017, the mission served nearly 175,000 meals to people in need, in addition to providing overnight emergency shelter to more than 2,500 people.

What's unclear: How long is "temporary"?

"If they don't finish (the street relocation) until 2020, and we have to do a two- or three-stage construction, we're going to be in these buildings anywhere from three to five years," Eskes said. Once the old street right-of-way is deeded to the mission, new buildings would be built and occupied in phases over time. "We cannot at any time interrupt our services," Eskes said. "We are the only facility here that takes anyone in 24 hours a day, seven days a week.

"Our hope and prayer is, at the end of this long period of time, we will be able to continue to meet the needs of our community with no interruption."

The rail authority's 7-0 vote approving the agreement included conditions to ensure that the anticipated construction costs don't run over the estimate.

The board's vice chairman, Fresno developer Tom Richards, suggested that the rail authority consider converting the deal with Fresno to a "fixed-price contract" once bids come in. "I think that's a really good idea to convert at a time before we start construction," Richards said, "rather than coming back half or three-quarters of the way in and telling us we're over price."

Instead, however, the board approved a suggestion by board member Nancy Miller, a Sacramento attorney, who called for the city of Fresno to provide the agency with the results of bids for the construction; if the bids come in higher, Miller added, the authority could terminate the agreement.

Tim Sheehan: 559-441-6319; Twitter: @TimSheehanNews.

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