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Assessing Environmental Impacts for an Award-Winning Rail Project

Colton Crossing 980x550
Colton Crossing 980x550

Colton Crossing Rail-to-Rail Improvement Project | Colton, CA

LSA prepared the Initial Study/Mitigated Negative Declaration (IS/MND) and Environmental Assessment/Finding of No Significant Impact (EA/FONSI) for the project. Additional technical studies were prepared for cultural resources, biological resources, air quality, community impacts, and visual resources. Substantial community outreach within the City of Colton was conducted during the development and public review of the environmental documents to ensure the public was involved in the review process. The IS/MND was approved by the California Department of Transportation (Caltrans), and the EA/FONSI was approved by the Federal Highway Administration (FHWA). LSA was also responsible for simultaneous permitting of the project through the United States Army Corps of Engineers, the Regional Water Quality Control Board, and the California Department of Fish and Wildlife to ensure project construction was initiated within the time frame required by the federal and State grant monies.

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The City of Colton has played a historic role in the development of the railroads since the 1870s.  Given this long association, the potential for encountering extant and buried historic resources was of particular concern during the environmental review process. Evaluation of cultural resources was conducted pursuant to Section 106 of the National Historic Preservation Act (federal) and California Environmental Quality Act. This assessment included evaluation of all existing structures for eligibility on the National Register of Historic Places (National Register) and the California Register of Historical Resources (California Register), subsurface investigation using ground penetrating radar, and focused test excavations to determine the location of buried historic period resources. Buried historical resources were encountered and evaluated for eligibility for the National Register and California Register. This effort was conducted in an expedited time frame, requiring close coordination with cultural resource staff from Caltrans, FHWA, and the Federal Transit Administration to complete the evaluation effort in time for inclusion in the environmental documents.

Additionally, the evaluation of criteria air pollutants and toxic air contaminants was essential to demonstrating the benefits of the proposed project and achievement of the project purpose. The Air Quality Assessment evaluated the effects of reduced train idling on the mainline tracks and improvement in motor vehicle delay on local arterials associated with the construction of the rail-to-rail grade separation. The analysis demonstrated that the air quality benefits were not limited to the local area around the crossing but also extended regionally to Coachella Valley, High Desert, and urban Los Angeles County due to improved rail efficiencies resulting in reduced idling and delay of mainline trains and on-road motor vehicles.

Union Pacific Railroad (UPRR) and BNSF Railway were regular participants in Project Development Team meetings. Because of the extent of work within its right-of-way, the UPRR in particular required extensive project coordination.

LSA worked directly with UPRR staff on project design issues related to biological resources impacts and architectural features. The UPRR relied on LSA staff to deal with the complex cultural resources issues associated with the project resulting from the Section 106 process. UPRR and LSA staff worked together to collect data using ground-penetrating radar, remote sensing, test pits, and other field surveys. LSA and UPRR staff also worked together on community outreach to address neighborhood concerns about the project.

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Client
City of Colton (subconsultant to HDR)

Services
Environmental Document; Technical Studies

Project Leaders
Deborah Pracilio, Lynn Calvert-Hayes

Awards
California Transportation Foundation 2013 Rail Project of the Year

American Council of Engineers of California 2014 Honor Award for Engineering Excellence

American Council of Engineering Companies of Nebraska 2014 Merit Award for Engineering Excellence

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