The roughly $18 million project to build an underpass beneath the BNSF Railway line at G Street cleared one last hurdle Monday night when the Merced City Council unanimously passed a motion OK'ing the purchase of the final holdout property along G Street.
For the past year, the city has been in negotiations with 12 property owners along G Street whose land the city needed to use for the project.
Monday night those negotiations effectively came to an end.
The city settled with G Street Mini Storage, the last holdout property along G Street, by paying $600,000 for a 3,400-square-foot parcel along G Street. In the agreement the city will also hand over a similar parcel owned by the city adjacent to the property on G Street. The city will also hand over another 2,500 square feet of city- owned land along West 23rd Street.
David Gonzalves, the city's development services director, admitted that it was a very generous offer the city made to the last property owner, but now there is nothing standing in the way of the project. "We can now certify our right of way," said Gonzalves. "We have no areas that we need to work around."
Before city staff came to an agreement with the owners of G Street Mini Storage on March 9, the city had begun eminent domain proceedings, as it had done with several other parcels before they were acquired.
In all, the city paid out roughly $4 million to buy the 12 parcels along the project's right of way, said Gonzalves. About $2 million of that money was spent on properties that will be used by the city for future development, he said.
The undercrossing project, which can now move forward, is estimated to take 18 months. The construction will begin July 1.
Bids on the project will go out next week and close in mid-April, said Gonzalves.
The construction phase of the project will be a joint effort between BNSF Railway and whatever firm wins the bid. BNSF Railway will build the actual bridge that will span G Street and the rest of the construction will be done by a contractor.
Funding for the project came from a $9 million grant from the California Transportation Commission. The rest came from Redevelopment Agency funds and development impact fees the city had already set aside.
Reporter Jonah Owen Lamb can be reached at (209) 385-2484 or firstname.lastname@example.org.