$6,000,000 in Funding for the Blackstone & McKinley Railroad Separations Project Approved by Fresno County Transportation Authority
(FRESNO, CA) –The Fresno County Transportation Authority (FCTA) announces it has awarded $6,000,000 of Measure C funding to the City of Fresno to begin design and environmental studies for a project to build two railroad grade separations at Blackstone and McKinley just east of Fresno City College.
Measure C’s Alternative Transportation Program was originally intended to consolidate the Burlington Northern and Santa Fe (BNSF) railroad with the Union Pacific railroad which runs near Golden State Blvd. However, if rail consolidation was deemed infeasible the fund was to be used to construct grade separations that best coordinated with transit operations, reduced congestion, and improved air quality. The Board’s action today will provide this specific funding to meet all of these goals and significantly improve public safety by building grade separation structures for the double crossing of Blackstone and McKinley by the BNSF Railroad.
“This project once again illustrates Measure C’s commitment to improving transportation throughout Fresno County,” said Fresno County Supervisor & FCTA Board Chairman Buddy Mendes. “This significant investment will relieve congestion, improve air quality, increase transit reliability, and improve public safety. I want to thank the voters of Fresno County who have twice voted to tax themselves so that we can deliver critically needed transportation projects like this one.”
“I want to thank FCTA for making this their number one priority for their Railroad Grade Separation funding,” said City of Fresno Public Works Director Scott Mozier. “We are excited to finally see this project get started. It has long been a high priority for the City of Fresno, but without the FCTA awarding $6 million in Measure C funding today, it is unlikely we would have ever been able to get it built. I would also like to thank my staff for their hard work putting together the project cost estimate and schedule.”
An average of 37 trains per day travel these tracks, and Measure C Funding will alleviate the traffic congestion resulting from these slow moving trains, by relocating traffic to go under the BNSF train tracks (much like the Shaw and West crossings of the BNSF). The project will improve on-time service performance for the City’s Bus Rapid Transit “Q” line and remedy traffic for Fresno City College located at the northwest quadrant of the Blackstone and McKinley intersection. Tragically, five lives have been lost at these crossings over the last 10 years. This project will eliminate that public safety threat.
“Generations of students and faculty have had to endure delays as they wait for the trains to pass so they can get to class,” said Fresno City College President Dr. Carole Goldsmith. “This project will help ease the flow of traffic to and from the campus, and it will improve the safety of students who must cross these tracks as they walk, ride, or drive to class.”
Project design, right of way acquisition and construction is estimated to cost between $70 and $80 million. FCTA is confident that as the design and environmental evaluation phase is completed, additional Measure C money will be available to continue the project. FCTA and the City of Fresno are also committed to identifying additional funding sources to ensure the project is completed and opened to traffic.
“This project is transformational for this area and long overdue,” said City of Fresno Council member Esmeralda Soria. “The FCTA Board has demonstrated the essential foresight to fund this much needed project. This is just one more example of Counties and Cities coming together collectively to reduce air pollution, increase pedestrian and vehicle safety as well as improving the quality of near-by neighborhoods and schools.”
This project will be fully compatible and complementary to the “Better Blackstone” initiative which is intended to diversify and improve land uses along the corridor as well as improve its aesthetics and make it more pedestrian friendly. It is also fully compatible with the affordable housing project currently under construction in the southwest corner of the McKinley-Blackstone intersection.
“I am so pleased to see the community, the City of Fresno, and FCTA coming together to provide real quality of life improvements to this historic neighborhood,” said Fresno Metro Ministry Executive Director Keith Bergthold. “Together, we are going to build a better Fresno.”
“The Blackstone and McKinley grade separation project is yet another of the ‘promises made, promises kept’ by Measure C” said Fresno Council of Governments Board Chair David Cardenas. “Over the last 30 years, Measure C has invested over $1 billion dollars in transportation projects and services in Fresno County. The Blackstone and McKinley grade separation, and the safety benefits it will bring to motorists and pedestrians in central Fresno are long deserved and well warranted.”
Construction on this project will begin Winter 2022 and be completed Winter 2025, weather permitting. To download drone footage specific to the Blackstone & McKinley Railroad Separations Project, or to request a media interview, please visit http://measurec.com/bnsf/.