BNSF Grade Separation

$6 Million in Funding for the Blackstone & McKinley Railroad Separations Project Approved by Fresno County Transportation Authority

The Fresno County Transportation Authority (FCTA) has so far awarded $35.1M of Measure C funding to the City of Fresno to complete environmental clearance, design and continue Right of Way acquisitions 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 provided 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.

An average of 37 trains per day travel these tracks and over 42,000 vehicles cross the combined intersections daily. 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.

The project is expected to cost approximately $162M and will take about five years to design, purchase right of way and construct with a projected opening in 2026. This project has an initial Measure C commitment of $35.1M to complete environmental clearance, design and continue Right of Way acquisitions.  As design progressed, R/W complications were encountered that resulted in the cost escalation for the project. The city pursued a couple of grants (CALSTA and Section 190) to meet the funding challenges.  The CALSTA grant application was submitted 01/20/23 and was approved on 07/06/23 in the amount of $80M.

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.

Construction on this project will begin Winter 2022 and be completed Winter 2025, weather permitting.

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