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In Fresno, New Tuolumne Street Bridge Opens

Jeffrey Hess/KVPR
Tom Richards

The first major piece of construction for high speed rail in downtown Fresno is complete. On Friday, officials cut the ribbon on a brand new Tuolumne Street bridge.

The massive bridge is designed to carry traffic over the existing railways and create enough space below for the high speed trains.

HSR Board Vice Chair Tom Richards says the bridge is an important symbol of progress that shines far beyond Fresno.

“Not only does that mean in California that means in the United States of America and North America in total. Because there is no other high speed rail train system being constructed in our country or North America at the time,” Richards says.

The previous bridge was too small to accommodate the high speed line.

The new bridge will now carry two-way traffic and all of Tuolumne will be converted to two-way traffic by this fall, according to the High Speed Rail Authority. The Stanislaus Street Bridge immediately north will be torn down but not replaced. Many other over and underpasses will need to be built to allow for the train to safely speed through Fresno without stopping.

Fresno Mayor Lee Brand says the investment by high speed rail is a big boost to downtown Fresno.

“To the critics of the high speed rail, which at one time included me, the high speed rail is going to invest $500 million in the city of Fresno. That is a tremendous impact on our city,” Brand says.

The bridge project finished about 8 months behind schedule having been slowed by a rainy winter and a problem with the initial concrete deck that had to be fixed.

The bridge is part of a series of construction projects underway to accommodate the first 119-mile section of bullet train line which will travel through the San Joaquin Valley. 

Jeffrey Hess is a reporter and Morning Edition news host for Valley Public Radio. Jeffrey was born and raised in a small town in rural southeast Ohio. After graduating from Otterbein University in Columbus, Ohio with a communications degree, Jeffrey embarked on a radio career. After brief stops at stations in Ohio and Texas, and not so brief stops in Florida and Mississippi, Jeffrey and his new wife Shivon are happy to be part Valley Public Radio.