Members of the Institute of Transportation Engineers at USC (USC ITE) toured the Fullerton Road grade separation project in the City of Industry, CA, on September 29th, 2023. Led by the San Gabriel Valley Council of Governments (SGVCOG), the Fullerton Road project is one of four remaining projects in the Alameda Corridor – East (ACE) program, which represents nearly $2 billion in public-private investments enhancing the nation’s freight infrastructure throughout the San Gabriel Valley. Since 1998, the program has completed 14 major grade separation and safety improvement projects, thanks to contributions from private railroads, along with federal, state, regional (LA Metro) funding. Once the Fullerton Road project is complete, neighborhoods on both sides of the tracks will experience reduced delays, improved air quality, and enhanced access to opportunities and critical services. These benefits are especially important given that SGVCOG projects significant increases in both rail and road traffic throughout the Corridor within the next ten years. This tour was an eye-opening experience, allowing students to witness construction near the USC campus and gain a deeper understanding of railroad crossings.
According to Professor Eric Shen, the faculty advisor for USC ITE, who served as the Director of Capital Projects/Chief Engineer of SGVCOG between 2020 and 2022, the Fullerton Rd Project is a complex undertaking. It involves lowering two intersections adjacent to the rail crossing and westbound SR-60 freeway ramps, constructing retaining walls, and building new roads, rail bridges, and pedestrian/bike linkages – all while supporting local businesses and minimizing congestion in nearby neighborhoods. Although construction began in 2016, only a portion of the project was completed by 2019, when work stopped. As a result of the work stoppage, the project sustained significant delays and cost increases. In mid-2021, SGVCOG awarded AECOM and Skanska contracts as the construction management team and builder, respectively. They are expected to complete the project by fall 2024.
During the tour, students gained a better understanding of the extensive collaboration required to complete the Fullerton Road project. For example, the Skanska engineers discussed their interactions with dozens of subcontractors to perform specialized tasks like driving bridge supports into the ground. Additionally, since construction teams are working within the railroad right of way, they must stop their work whenever a train approaches. And in the face of an impending rain forecast, students observed preventive measures taken by the contractors while driving many piles into the ground to support the new bridges. The collaboration is not just technical: the AECOM construction management team is responsible for safeguarding SGVCOG’s interests and ensuring Skanska’s compliance with the contract. Additionally, the SGVCOG Community Outreach team actively disseminates detour plans and construction schedules to minimize the impact on local businesses. Finally, the SGVCOG Capital Project team closely collaborates with funding agencies and provides accurate updates to its oversight committee.
Ultimately, this field trip allowed students – irrespective of their discipline, from engineering to planning and public policy – to witness the interdependence of experts in every profession and appreciate the true meaning of “teamwork”. One message was clear throughout our tour: grade separation and safety improvements at railroad crossings in urban areas reconnect communities to better opportunities and deliver safer streets.
This press release was featured by METRANS, a transportation research partnership between the University of Southern California, California State University Long Beach, the US Department of Transportation, and other industry partners. It was also featured on USC ITE’s website.