The San Gabriel Valley Council of Governments (SGVCOG) recently kicked-off construction on the $105.5-million Durfee Avenue Grade Separation Project in the city of Pico Rivera, about 13 miles southeast of Los Angeles.

The project is part of SGVCOG’s larger Alameda Corridor-East (ACE) Project, a program of 19 roadway-rail grade separations and safety improvements along the high-volume transcontinental ACE freight rail corridor. The Alameda Corridor-East (ACE) Construction Authority is overseeing this project, which is the 17th grade separation in the $1.7 billion ACE program.

The Durfee Avenue railroad crossing is used daily by 13,600 vehicles and blocked by an average of 49 trains a day, projected to increase to 91 trains by 2025. Officials say this grade separation project will reduce an estimated 15.3 vehicle-hours of delay each day and eliminate a great deal of locomotive horn noise. The Federal Railroad Administration has recorded nine collisions at the crossing since 1981, resulting in four fatalities.

The project will separate the roadway and the railroad tracks on Durfee Avenue in Pico Rivera. Plans call for constructing a 1,200-ft-long roadway underpass on Durfee Avenue between Beverly Road and Whittier Boulevard under the Union Pacific railroad tracks with retaining walls and a new 95-ft-long railroad bridge.

Phillip Balmeo, ACE project manager, told me the underpass structure will use an interesting combination of CIDH piles and columns together with secant piles. “The use of this foundation system reduces the need for temporary shoring as the foundation is installed which reduces closure times of the local street,” he says.

AECOM designed the project, while Riverside Construction Company, Inc. is the contractor building the project and self-performing all the concrete work.

Balmeo says one of the biggest challenges he foresees on the project will be coordinating the work with the multiple parties involved and dealing with the intricate staging involved in the project.

“We definitely have our work cut out for us with all of the third-party utility relocations needed to be done upfront prior to construction, the adjacent private property work which have very tight working windows and coordination of the work with the heavy influence of Union Pacific Railroad at the same time,” says Balmeo. “Each task has its own specifications and requirements. The key to success will be consistent project management of all the complex moving parts, and good coordination and communication from both the Agency and contractor.”

The project includes more than two miles of concrete piles for the bridge and retaining walls and more than one acre of concrete sidewalk within the project. There is approximately 30,000 sq-ft of shoring required for construction of the pump station wet well, retaining walls and Union Pacific railroad Bridge. Nearly 4,500 track ft of railroad track will need to be installed by contractor for the Union Pacific railroad shoofly.

The 30-month-long construction project is projected to create more than 1,370 direct and indirect jobs, with completion scheduled for fall 2021.The project is fully funded and a construction contract was awarded in December 2018. Project cost is estimated at $105.5 million.