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Placentia Avenue grade separation

Awards won:

2014 Project Achievement Award (Transportation/Owner as CM/$11-$50 Million), Construction Management Association of America (CMAA) Southern California Chapter

Placentia Avenue Grade Separation

“Better quality of life for residents and businesses”

Orange County Transportation Authority (OCTA) / Fullerton and Placentia, California


Almost 70 trains per day travel along the Burlington Northern Santa Fe (BNSF) rail line through Anaheim, Fullerton, and Placentia. That number is expected to increase by more than 45% by 2030.

The Placentia Avenue crossing is one of seven grade crossings targeted for improvement by Orange County’s OC Bridges program. Each of the seven is among the California Public Utilities Commission’s list of the top 50 grade crossings with safety concerns.


Mott MacDonald was retained by OCTA in 2008 and provided full-time staff to manage preliminary engineering, environmental, design, and construction, along with on-call services for special requirements on the project. Construction work began in January 2012, with a temporary detour road provided for drivers along with a railroad shoofly to allow for the construction of the railroad bridge in its current alignment and maintain railroad operations.


The project provided significant community benefits by separating over 20,000 vehicles a day from the train traffic. Announcing the opening of the crossing in March 2014, OCTA Chairman Shawn Nelson said, “This project translates into a better quality of life for residents and businesses in the area by decreasing commute times and eliminating the annoyance of having to wait at rail crossings for trains to pass by. It’s a great milestone to open this first grade-separation project in the OC Bridges Program to the public.”

The project was completed on schedule and within budget. The contractor reported a total of 112,196 hours of work performed with no lost time due to injuries.

Two innovative approaches saved over $600,000. By selectively accelerating specific contractor operations the track sub-ballast was ready for BNSF to mobilize its track laying machine on the scheduled date, avoiding a delay of up to six months and an estimated cost of $400,000.

Additionally, by substituting a standard beam and plate shoring system for a labor-intensive temporary wall systems necessary for maintaining rail and vehicular traffic, an estimated $200,000 was saved.

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