Thermal bridge groundbreaking Tuesday

Thermal, Calif. - The public is invited to Tuesday's groundbreaking of the $29.5 million construction of a bridge over Union Pacific train tracks in Thermal, county officials announced today.

The ceremony will take place at the northwest corner of Grapefruit and Airport boulevards at 10 a.m. District 4 Riverside County Supervisor John Benoit said the new bridge would be a boon to the Thermal community and further business development.

``This overpass will greatly improve rail safety, response times by emergency vehicles, air quality and help make the Jacqueline Cochran Regional Airport more accessible and vital,'' Benoit said.

Airport Boulevard is a one-lane street that serves Thermal, La Quinta and Coachella in each direction, Benoit's spokesman Darin Schemmer said.

The new bridge, which is set to start construction in March, will provide commuters with four-lanes. Construction is expected to last for 28 months with completion slated by July 2016, Schemmer said.

Airport Boulevard, between Desert Cactus Drive and Polk Street, will remain closed during the bridge's construction. Traffic will be detoured through Avenue 52 and Avenue 62 off of Highway 86, Schemmer said.

Every day, 71 freight trains pass through eastern Coachella Valley, prompting the railroad crossing at Airport boulevard to have its gates down for more than an hour. Diverting traffic around the crossing would reduce the time vehicles are kept running idle, thereby improving air quality, and improve public safety response times, Benoit's office reported.

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