FAIRFIELD — Fairfield continues to look for a way to break the logjam that has left Cordelia Road closed at a railroad crossing for more than a year.
The unresolved question remains who should pay for safety improvements to the railroad spur crossing near Hale Ranch Road. City officials have said the cost is $230,000 to $280,000 to do such things as install a median that would keep drivers from trying to cross the tracks when the crossing arms are down.
“Right now, we’re at a standstill with the railroad,” Fairfield City Engineer Kevin Berryhill said Monday.
Candidates to pay for the improvements are Fairfield, Union Pacific Railroad Co., California Northern Railroad and Sacramento-based developer Buzz Oates, which is working on an adjacent development. None has agreed to do so.
Fairfield has also questioned whether the proposed rail crossing improvements are needed.
A meeting between the principle parties and California Public Utilities Commission officials on July 31 failed to resolve the matter. The commission oversees railroad crossings.
“We’re trying to move forward as fast as we possibly can,” Berryhill said.
The closure began in July 2013. Buzz Oates made city-required improvements to a stretch of Cordelia Road adjacent to the Solano Logistics Center, the warehouse development it is building on 52 acres.
Buzz Oates finished widening the road, adding curbs and making other improvements in the fall of 2013. But Cordelia Road can’t be reopened at the railroad crossing until the crossing is repaved.
With the crossing closed, motorists must go about 1½ miles out of their way on a looping detour using Hale Ranch Road, Busch Drive and Chadbourne Road.
City officials said they learned in February that Union Pacific wants $280,000 worth of improvements at the crossing. The railroad spur is owned by Union Pacific and used by the California Northern Railroad to serve the Anheuser-Busch brewery.
Paving cannot be done at the crossing without the cooperation of Union Pacific.
The city in a letter stated that it disagrees with rail crossing improvements recommended by the California Public Utilities Commission, Union Pacific and California Northern. But Union Pacific in an Aug. 11 letter to the city says the improvements are mandated by the California Public Utilities Commission, not the railroads.
“Your disagreement should be addressed to CPUC staff,” said the letter from the law firm Cregger & Chalfant on behalf of Union Pacific.
What remains unclear is why all parties didn’t know about recommended railroad crossing improvements before the Cordelia Road project began.
Fairfield officials said a 1974 resolution by Solano County allowing the railroad spur to cross Cordelia Road states the county doesn’t have to pay for crossing improvements. Fairfield later annexed the land and became the successor to the agreement. Therefore, city officials said, Fairfield shouldn’t have to pay for improvements.
Union Pacific didn’t dispute this point in the Aug. 11 letter. But, the letter said, the 1974 resolution doesn’t require Union Pacific to pay for all future improvements at the railroad spur crossing.
The agreement doesn’t address the responsibility of third parties. Any changes required at the crossing result from activities by the Solano Logistics developer. Solano Logistics should pay for the crossing improvements, the letter said.
Officials with Buzz Oates couldn’t be reached for comment Wednesday.
City Construction Manager Tom Martian said that the city is trying to be a partner and understand the positions of the various parties. But it also has a road to open up, he said.
“It’s really on our front burner,” Martian said. “We’re following through with it.”
Cordelia Road runs southwest of the road closure through rural Solano County to the rural town of Cordelia, Interstate 680 and the Cordelia Villages area of Fairfield. Motorists sometimes use it as an alternative to Interstate 80 when freeway traffic is heavy.
Reach Barry Eberling at 427-6929 or [email protected] Follow him on Twitter at www.twitter.com/beberlingdr.