Michael J. Sorba, Staff Writer
Posted: 02/18/2010 05:56:48 PM PST

COLTON – More than 3,500 jobs could be headed to the Inland Empire after an infusion of federal stimulus dollars that will help pay for a critical railroad project here.

But precisely when construction will begin remains in the air.

Local transportation officials say $34 million in American Recovery Act money announced this week should cover the final funding gap for the $198 million railroad grade separation.

“Certainty, major infrastructure projects like this are the quickest way to ensure an influx of jobs into the economy and that will certainly be an outcome of this allocation,” said Deborah Barmack, executive director of San Bernardino Associated Governments, or Sanbag, the county’s transportation agency.

Around 100 trains a day pass through the Colton Crossing, where BNSF Railway tracks intersect Union Pacific Railroad tracks, Barmack said. For decades, one set of trains has had to come to a full stop to allow other trains to pass, she said.

“This critical investment will create much-needed jobs in the Inland Empire while also helping eliminate a major bottleneck for freight moving along the Alameda Corridor to and from the ports of Los Angeles and Long Beach,” U.S. Senator Barbara Boxer, D-Calif., said in a statement Wednesday.

Officials with Caltrans, the state’s transportation agency, could not say Thursday when the project’s construction could begin. Barmack said the federal funds appear to be the last piece of funding needed, but $198 million is still only an estimate. Barmack said an exact cost won’t be determined until an engineering method for the project is selected and designed.

Sanbag, the city of Colton, Caltrans and the railroads will determine which set of tracks should be placed on top, if one set of tracks should be raised to travel over the I-10 freeway or if a trench should be dug so one set of tracks can travel under the freeway, Barmack said.

In additional to the federal
A Union Pacific freight train crosses the tracks Wednesday near La Cadena Drive in Colton. (LaFonzo Carter Staff Photographer)
money, the railroads will pay half of the project’s cost and the state has committed about $90 million, Barmack said.

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