Avenue 336 Rail Crossing. Photo: Pedro Hernández / Cruce ferroviario de la avenida 336. Foto: Pedro Hernández.
By Pedro Hernández, Ivanhoe Sol
Unlike many other unincorporated communities in Tulare County, Ivanhoe is bisected by a rail line which presents unique challenges to community infrastructure – particularly when rail lines bisect roads such as Avenue 328 and Avenue 336. For many Ivanhoe residents this has meant that the average resident has encountered congested traffic, potential risks for car crashes, and increasing physical damage to roads.
On Sept. 12, the Tulare County Board of Supervisors took a small but important action to advance a safety improvement project for the rail crossing on Avenue 336.
In short, the Supervisors approved an amendment to extend the term of an agreement with the California Department of Transportation through December 31, 2024. This meant that the documents for the funding agreement that will provide resources to this project had their scope of work adjusted to account for delays in the planning process.
Six Years in the Making
One of the first major events that set this project in motion occurred on July 12, 2017 when a site diagnostic meeting was held between Caltrans Division of Rail, the California Public Utilities Commission, San Joaquin Valley Railroad (SJVR), Union Pacific Railroad (UPRR), and the County of Tulare. The diagnostic team analyzed the existing crossing with respect to vehicular travel, bicycle travel, pedestrian pathways and rail traffic, and identified improvements that will improve the safety of the crossing.
The recommendations that resulted from this study identify several improvements for both railroad and local agency work which will be contracted separately by Caltrans Division of Rail.
The overall scope of work includes upgrades to the railroad crossing equipment (warning devices), resurfacing and reconstruction of the roadway approaches, and signage and striping, all of which will improve the safety of the existing at-grade railroad crossing.
According to official documents, the proposed improvements to the Avenue 336 crossing have been “correlated with a significant decrease in fatalities at railway-highway grade crossings”.
Improvements to the railroad crossing warning devices will enhance the visibility for motorists turning right from the southbound Road 152 (north) approach. Repaving of the Avenue 336, and segments of the Road 152 roadway approaches will eliminate irregularities and will provide a smooth transition surface for vehicles to traverse safely across the tracks as well as provide a surface for pavement markings to adhere well to.
While the project was initially approved by Tulare County in December of 2019 which included an initial planning phase. It was later determined that the Union Pacific Railroad required additional plan review and design acceptance.
As the progress of the project continued, the project encountered unforeseen challenges during implementation, primarily caused by the delay in determining the requirement for a Construction and Maintenance Agreement (C&M) to facilitate construction within the UPRR Right-of-Way. The coordination process involving the County, UPRR, and SJVR has been slower than anticipated. Thus, requiring extending the expiration of the service contract to December 31, 2024.
According to Tulare County, the project design has been completed and a contractor has been selected to begin construction in Fall of 2023 and is expected to be completed in 2024.