By Airan Scruby

PICO RIVERA – City officials say they are ready to proceed with a $43.4 million plan to tunnel under railroad tracks on Passons Boulevard, creating an underpass for traffic.

In the process, residents of five houses and the 90-unit Rivera Villa apartment complex will be relocated, and their homes demolished.

“It’s probably the biggest single public construction project either in the history of the city or in a long, long time,” Senior Analyst Ceci Chang said.

The project is being paid for with state money and by Caltrans, Burlington North Santa Fe Railway and with federal funds.

The city will not contribute money, Chang said, but it will be the lead agency on the project, bringing in construction contracts and collaborating with a consulting firm on relocating residents.

Moving people from their homes and buying their property will be the first phase of the project, Chang said, and should begin in early July.

“We have retained a consultant to help us with that,” Assistant City Manager Jeff Prang said. “Since we’re basically doing this through eminent domain.”

Though eminent domain was outlawed in cases of redevelopment in the city in the 1990s, Prang said this situation is a safety issue. The tracks, located near schools, have been the site of accidents and, in 2005, an El Rancho High School student was struck and killed by a train while walking home.

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