U.S. Senator Barbara Boxer

BY DUG BEGLEY
STAFF WRITER
dbegley@pe.com

Published: 18 January 2012 06:35 PM

Riverside’s Magnolia Avenue underpass served as the backdrop Wednesday for a push by Sen. Barbara Boxer to encourage more federal investment in local projects that create jobs, ease traffic and get trucks and trains to their destinations quicker.

“This is an example of what America should be doing now,” said Boxer, D-Calif., during a brief stop to tout the $53.1 million underpass project.

Boxer, chairwoman for the Senate Environment and Public Works Committee that last month approved a draft of a new federal transportation bill, said Washington officials need to focus on projects such as the Magnolia underpass that help freight flow without delaying local residents. The underpass lowers Magnolia beneath two sets of railroad tracks that previously clogged the crossing for more than two hours each day.

One lane of the underpass is open in each direction as workers finish the project. All of the lanes will open in the next three weeks, said Tom Boyd, the city’s interim public works director. The project was initially expected to open in August, but weather delayed construction in late 2010 and early 2011.

Despite the wait, officials said the underpass was a huge improvement for local drivers.

“This is the kind of key way that people get from one end of Riverside to another,” Mayor Ron Loveridge said.

In addition to reducing delays caused by passing trains, the underpass allows police cars, firetrucks and ambulances better access in the area around Riverside Plaza. Officials estimated the underpass will improve emergency response times in the area by three minutes.

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