When we say that DOT's TIGER grants are awarded to projects that create partnerships to solve problems and put people to work, we aren't kidding. And Tuesday, Federal Highway Administrator Victor Mendez helped break ground on a TIGER project in Colton, California, that will solve a rail and road problem that has plagued San Bernardino County for nearly 129 years.
That's right; since 1893, the at-grade Colton railroad crossing has caused significant freight and passenger train delays. In fact, it almost caused bloodshed back in 1893 when the Southern Pacific Railroad physically blocked California Southern Railroad's attempt to install a level crossing that would allow its north-south trains to move across the east-west tracks of its rival. The dispute escalated into a guns-drawn standoff between the two railroads and their employees, including famous lawman Virgil Earp, before the conflict was resolved and the rail junction was installed.
But the crossing's problems were only just beginning. An at-grade crossing means that one train approaching the intersection must wait until a train on the other track has cleared it. That wasn't a problem when a handful of trains passed through the crossing each day, but today as many as 135 Union Pacific, BNSF, Amtrak, and Metrolink trains pass through this crude intersection.
And that creates a major chokepoint. Trains back up. Freight shipping is slowed to and from the important Ports of Long Beach and Los Angeles. Idling trains create noise and exhaust pollution for residents. And the backed-up trains block 24 different railroad crossings on local roads, adding vehicle congestion to the list of consequences.
With support from the San Bernardino Associated Goverments and funding from TIGER, the state of California, and the railroads, the Alameda Corridor Transit Authority will construct an overpass for trains on the east-west tracks. This project is a terrific example of how--when regional partners come together and federal dollars attract state and private investment--we can solve transportation problems that harm businesses and local communities.
Those are the kind of results we can also expect from the transportation provisions in President Obama's American Jobs Act. From the infrastructure bank to targeted federal investments repairing roads, rails, and runways, these are bipartisan, time-tested ideas for solving transportation problems and putting American men and women back to work.
President Obama knows it. Administrator Mendez knows it. The Union Pacific and BNSF railroads know it. The town of Colton and the county of San Bernardino know it. The unemployed constructions workers waiting to get back on the job know it. And Congress knows it.
Projects like the Colton Crossing rail separation prove that America can still dream big and build big. Across the country, we've got work to do and workers ready to do it. Let's get busy.