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A pedestrian overpass at the Amtrak station in Martinez had its long-awaited opening Wednesday, even though one of its two elevators hasn’t yet been cleared for public use, a city official said this week.
Don Salts, Martinez’s deputy public works director, said the 110-foot overpass has been cleared to be opened using the stairways at either end of the structure. The last hurdle to complete opening, he said, is approval to open and use the elevator at the north end of the overpass, across the railroad tracks from the station.
It isn’t certain when the state Department of Industrial Relations will sign off on the elevator, Salts said.
The pedestrian bridge itself, Salts said, has been almost complete for more than a year. Several things have held up its opening, he said, including obtaining approval from PG&E to work on the north elevator tower across the tracks from the station because power lines pass directly overhead. And approval of the overcrossing’s plans by Union Pacific, the freight railroad that owns the tracks that pass by the Martinez station, added time to the project, Salts said.
But the overcrossing has been closed to the public, at least most of the time, with gates on stairways at either end remaining locked.
That changed Wednesday morning. Salts said he spoke with the station agent Tuesday about opening the overcrossing, and it was open Wednesday.
While the overcrossing and station are owned by the city of Martinez, they are operated by Amtrak, Salts said. Eighteen regional Amtrak trains and four long-distance trains call at the Amtrak station every day.
Amtrak station employees last week had referred a request for information to an Amtrak spokeswoman in Oakland. That spokeswoman said that since the city of Martinez owns the bridge, Amtrak wouldn’t have any comment on it.
The pedestrian overpass is one of the major projects to improve the Martinez Intermodal Facility (the Amtrak station), Phase 3 of a project funded in 2011 through Measure J transportation funds. The Martinez project also included about 400 new parking spaces for use by Amtrak patrons north of the station and a pedestrian overcrossing over the Union Pacific tracks at the station, connecting the station and the new parking spaces north of the tracks.
Two other major elements of the overall improvement project — a realignment of Ferry Street leading to the new parking spaces, and a new vehicle bridge over Alhambra Creek connecting the new parking spaces with Berrellesa Street to the west — have already been completed. The allocated costs for all that work was about $7.5 million.
Given a significant COVID-19-related drop in ridership on the regional trains — about 80 percent on the Capitol Corridor trains and 65 percent on the San Joaquins — demand for the parking spaces north of the station has been low. Even the parking lot adjacent to the station, which in pre-COVID times often filled to capacity, often has plenty of parking spaces available. Salts said that lack of demand for the new parking spaces has had no bearing on the delays in the overcrossing’s opening.