Riverside County supervisors signed off Tuesday on a $36.5 million contract for construction of a railroad grade separation intended to improve traffic flow and safety in Mecca.

In a 5-0 vote without comment, the Board of Supervisors authorized the Transportation & Land Management Agency to certify an agreement with the Riverside Construction Co. for the Union Pacific Railroad Grade Separation Project at State Route 111.

The work, which is slated to get underway this summer and will take roughly 18 months to complete, entails building a two-lane bridge, or overpass, that takes vehicles entering or exiting Highway 111 at 4th Street out of contact with freight trains traveling north and south at the location.

“Currently, 4th Street is the primary access to Mecca, and traffic going in and out of the community must wait at the tracks for trains to pass before they are able to cross,” according to a TLMA statement. “Due to projected regional population growth, the vehicular and train traffic (are) expected to increase and cause additional congestion and delays at the crossing.”

Constructing the grade separation will facilitate faster travel on 4th Street and prevent lines of cars from protruding onto northbound Highway 111, potentially creating hazards, according to the TMLA.

A half-dozen contractors’ bids were taken under review for the project, and Riverside Construction Co. was judged to be the “lowest responsive and responsible” bidder.

No general fund revenue will be tapped to pay for the project. According to a TLMA list of sources, the state and federal governments will be providing transportation grants to cover the lion’s share of expenses.

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