There are very few people in Merced who think that there should not be a grade crossing at G Street and the BNSF Railroad.
However, we are very upset that the city staff apparently has known since August of the impending nature of a $9 million "windfall" from the state for construction of such a grade separation, but no citizen input was solicited until Oct. 23.
Resistance to this project by affected residents is influenced by the already exiting heavy traffic problems on East 26th, East South Bear Creek, Glen Avenue and Santa Fe Avenue. Also, since 1923, the 52-acre established Ragsdale subdivision has maintained a stable and predictable residential value. It is a worry for us to try to assess the impact on our home values of increasing traffic and closed and restricted driveway access.
We think that we ought to have been brought on board from the earliest onset of engineering planning. The public deserves the opportunity to provide fully informed comments. The council, the engineers and the city consultants stood to gain by hearing and understanding the positions of all parties interested in this sweeping and long-lived decision that will impact Merced and a significantly large area of the city.
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The engineers' cavalier attitude as they drew road plans to remove driveway access to homes, to remove traditional street access to G Street, to remove business visibility from G Street and, most egregious of all, to design a subway in what is a serious flood zone as is recognized by FEMA and the Army Corps of Engineers. Citizens should have had an early opportunity to hear and be heard.
An overcrossing could have greater functionality and improved visual appeal over a flood-prone subway and should have been an option presented to the public.
It is true that railroad height requirements would require that the project area extend farther along G Street but would it also have been possible to reduce the impact on so many driveways and businesses?
The engineer-like response that flooding will be "rare" is unacceptable to those of us who use G Street and to those whose driveway access has been erased. What will be the impact of the road construction, short and long-term on the flood pattern in adjacent properties?
Contrary to some statements, noise in the area around the grade separation will be increased -- not decreased.
The word from city staff was that the railroad plans to construct a third track along their right-of-way to support increased train traffic. Plus, after construction is completed, vehicle traffic on G Street will be greatly increased due to the substantial residential growth in east and northeast Merced as well as making G Street a preferred route across town.
The city has promised for close to 50 years to build the Parsons Avenue Bear Creek Bridge and thereby develop additional access across town and to Highway 99. This bridge should be put on a fast track to construction.
In addition, Merced does not need a repeat of the engineering fiasco that resulted in the joke that is the intersection at 13th and V streets which took nearly three years to build and caused business disasters at Home Depot, the Perko's restaurant and Office Max.
We need a quality, competent contractor like C.C. Meyers, the fellow who rebuilt the Interstate 580 MacArthur, Maze interchange after the fuel tanker caused destructive damage there. He did that fabulous job under budget and in less than estimated time.
The City Council is requested to consider:
Because of increased noise on G Street: Consider a "no engine braking on trains" within the city limits ordinance be enacted now.
Because there may be some sort of restricted detour during construction: Consider signage routing truck and out of town bus companies to the Bradley overcrossing, M and R streets. (This includes the numerous California Department of Corrections prisoner transport buses from Jamestown to Highway 99.)
Because there will be a severe increase of traffic on 26th Street even after construction is complete: Consider installing a traffic signal at 26th Street and 4th Avenue. A signal would at least give residents along 26th Street and the avenues an opportunity to safely access what will become an even more densely traveled thoroughfare.
Because there is a construction delay and very little benefit to be gained by spending $2.5 to $3 million for construction of the temporary detour that was suggested by the engineers at the meeting on Oct. 23, set that money aside as seed money for the long promised Parsons/Bear Creek Bridge.
Because of the likelihood of periodic flooding: Consider that specific engineering attention be given to the problem of flooding in the subway as well as in adjacent property. (Note that Fresno's Shaw Avenue undercrossing which was used as an example by staff does flood.)
Because it is needed and has been long promised, consider leaning on Caltrans to expedite expansion and upgrade of the Bradley overcrossing by building a parallel structure so that the existing bridge will continue to be usable during that upgrade.
Merced resident Carolyn Goings wrote this letter to the city of Merced.