Grade Separation Projects


  • Economic Development
  • Local Governments
  • State Agencies


  • Bridges + Structures
  • Construction
  • Engineering
  • Roadways + Interchanges
  • Traffic + Safety
  • Transportation


  • Placentia, California

The County of Orange is the 6th most populous county in the U.S. If it were a separate country, it would be ranked 45th globally based on the volume of gross production. Supporting this robust economy is a major at-grade Burlington Northern Santa Fe rail (BNSF), freight, commuter rail, and Amtrak corridor bisecting the County. Currently, vehicular traffic along key arterials crossing this rail corridor is blocked 50% of the time during peak morning and evening hours. By 2030 freight train traffic is expected to double along this corridor to more than 130 trains per day; requiring the construction of five grade separation projects.

To keep the economy growing, protect the quality of life, and increase mobility and safety the Orange County Transportation Authority, the regional transportation agency, initiated the OC Bridges Program to build a series of bridges to separate trains from vehicles along the BNSF corridor in the Cities of Fullerton, Placentia, and Anaheim.

HR Green was contracted by the City of Placentia to serve as Owner’s Representative and provide plan checking for the design and construction of five of these grade separation projects, worth more than $400 million. HR Green’s Project Manager, Roy Stephenson, PE, was ideally suited to help protect the City’s interests and navigate the multi-jurisdictional impacts and approvals for this regionally-significant program. Roy brought over 40 years of municipal engineering expertise to Orange County, serving as City Engineer/Public Works Director to six local cities, successfully shepherding and processing more than 10 high-profile grade separation projects, and formulating recommendations for the Orangethorpe Rail Corridor Study dating from the 1980s.

Over the past four years HR Green has provided project management responsibilities, including attending regularly scheduled OCTA project development team meetings; collaborating with OCTA staff and consultants; attending meetings and coordinating with utility companies; attending OCTA Board meetings and City Council meetings as-needed; reviewing plans and specifications for compliance with agency design standards; and providing technical input into design alternatives and conditions for city encroachment permits as well as construction coordination with OCTA staff, consultants, and contractors.

One key aspect of adding value to the region and the City of Placentia was HR Green’s critical input on the technical advisory committee, which included the design engineers, OCTA representatives, and appropriate City representatives. The following is a brief representation of the benefits derived from HR Green’s involvement:

Placentia Avenue Undercrossing/Grade Separation ($69 million)

  1. A roadway within the project area, Industrial Way, had very poor pavement conditions.  HR Green’s Project Manager helped negotiate for OCTA to require the contractor to reconstruct the road at a cost of approximately $50,000 due to adverse impacts of construction.
  2. Due to the reconfiguration of the project area, there was residual, unused land that the City desired to purchase to generate revenue for the City’s General Fund. There were two appraisals done on the property. The City was able to negotiate the purchase of the property at a $1 million savings and then was able to structure a leasing agreement with a large car dealership to store their vehicles on this property.
  3. On behalf of the City, HR Green’s Project Manager negotiated with the contractor to incorporate sound attenuation elements and allow for nighttime construction adjacent to apartments. This mitigated community complaints and reduced the detour schedule by several months.

Kraemer Boulevard Undercrossing/Grade Separation ($71 million)

  1. The lowering of the roadway created a sump condition with the existing 78-inch diameter storm drain system and a 15- inch diameter sewer trunk line. HR Green’s Project Manager worked closely with Anaheim’s City Engineer and OCTA’s design engineer to facilitate drainage and sewer facilities as gravity systems. This avoided the need for a sump pump system, thereby saving more than $200,000 in construction costs.

Orangethorpe Avenue Overcrossing/Grade Separation ($117 million)

  1. Southern California Edison was tasked to relocate underground and overhead utilities to allow the contractor to drive 800 piles adjacent to the railroad tracks and homes under a constrained schedule. To mitigate impacts and accelerate the construction schedule HR Green’s Project Manager negotiated various design elements and participated in public outreach workshops/meetings. Our Project Manager negotiated a complete road closure and $200,000 from OCTA for additional traffic control while helping to create a viable detour option and reduce the construction schedule by 12 months. Additionally, the contractor was mandated to only drive piles during the day and erect sound blankets to mitigate sound.

Lakeview Avenue Overcrossing/Grade Separation ($70 million)

  1. Lakeview Avenue had to be closed and reconstructed. A parallel arterial, Richfield Road, was identified as a major detour route. However, the original construction plans called for this alternate arterial to accommodate added traffic with only one northbound lane. Given the concerns of additional traffic and heavy equipment usage, HR Green’s Project Manager negotiated for OCTA to prepare a traffic study. The study showed a significant increase in traffic and heavy construction equipment volumes. Consequently, OCTA agreed to pay $500,000 to widen Richfield Road to two lanes, $200,000 for recommended pavement improvements, and $150,000 for an additional traffic signal.


  1. All projects came in under budget
  2. OC Bridges Projects received WTS’ 2014 Transportation Solutions Award
  3. American Public Works Association, Southern CA Chapter 2014 Project of the Year for the Kraemer Boulevard Grade Separation
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