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Mid-2015 finish for Lathrop Road rail overcrossing
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 It doesn’t look like much now. 

Two piles of dirt at sloped angles with massive concrete pylons in between. A temporary roadway that’s confusing to navigate and constantly abuzz with construction trucks and workers. Enough dust and dirt to keep most pedestrians away. 

But when the Lathrop Road Westerly Grade Separation project is finally completed it will be a major piece of the local transportation puzzle – providing a straight route from Interstate 5 to Highway 99 that’s free of any possible railroad obstructions. 

A corridor without worry. A corridor without waits. 

Construction on the $13.3 million project began in October and is expected to be completed by next summer. The city was able to secure $16.8 million in funding that will more than cover the cost – $10.8 million from Measure K transportation funds, $5 million from state Proposition 1B funds and $1 million from Union Pacific Railroad. 

Just over $1.3 million was allocated to a contingency fund to take care of change orders and any unforeseen expenses. After getting a $130,000 credit the fund has actually made money rather that just shell it out. 

Once completed, the grade separation will be Lathrop’s second – and the second on Lathrop Road – and will eliminate any traffic buildup that occurs as a result of the busy Union Pacific intermodal lines that run through the area.

That’s not to say that the project has been without issues. 

The dry winter has made keeping the dust in the area down difficult, and pedestrian access to Woodfield Park has been limited during periods of heavy construction. Ironically, traffic has been occasionally held up by crews as they worked on portions of the project that required them to extend out into the roadway – the exact sort of holdups that the project will avoid once completed. 

Councilman Steve Dresser said that he’d like to see the storm retention basin that’ll be included as part of the finished product be something that the citizens of the community can utilize much like a park, although a park that includes things not found at the popular recreation area across the street. 

Lathrop Senior Civil Engineer Michael King said that the city would more than likely look at including a dog park as well as a walking path around the park – avoiding things in the bowl that would be damaged or made inoperable by the storm water that will be pumped into it whenever heavy rains fall in the area. 

Access to side streets and the nearby Fireside Inn will still exist once everything is completed, albeit in the form of a new road. The existing stretch of Lathrop Road will be demolished.