Commissioners, BNSF reach Hull demolition agreement

CNJ file photo The Hull Street overpass was closed in July due to safety reasons.

By Gabriel Monte: CNJ staff writer

The Clovis City Commission approved a $500,000 contract with the BNSF Railway to remove the top structure of the Hull Street overpass despite the strong objections of Commissioner Bobby Sandoval and several citizens.

The commission approved the proposal 6-1 during a special meeting Friday, with Sandoval casting the dissenting vote.

The overpass was closed in July for safety reasons.

The city will reimburse the railroad company for the work, which costs $534,263, according to City Manager Joe Thomas. He said work could start in November.

City Attorney Dave Richards told commissioners BNSF approached the city with the proposal because the aging structure poses a safety hazard to railway employees.

He said the busiest time for the railway starts in October.

Richards said BNSF indicated if the city did not approve the proposal, the railway would proceed with removal of the structure and bill the city later. He called the railway company’s contract a “take it or leave it” proposal.

Sandoval said he did not agree with language in the contract that would protect the railway company from legal or financial liability from any damages from the project.

Sandoval said he preferred the city had more time to negotiate the agreement.

“I’m troubled by the fact is wasn’t a two-sided contract,” he said.

City Commissioner Fred Van Soelen said the city was getting a good deal for the removal of the structure from the railway company.

“It’s not ideal, but it’s the best (deal) we have to get done what everybody knows we have to do,” he said referring to the demolition of the structure.

BNSF officials did not attend Friday’s meeting and could not be reached for comment.

A state engineer said the 46-year-old structure would not be able to support the estimated 4,300 vehicles that use the overpass pass daily.

Thomas estimated replacing the overpass to cost between $7 million to $9 million.

In other business commissioners:

• Approved to apply for State Highway and Transportation MAP funding for the design and construction of the overpass.

Thomas said the city could receive between $240,000 to $250,000 from the state.

• Authorized a budget change of about $13,000 to test the concrete of the overpass to determine the level of the structures deterioration.

Thomas said the test could also determine if other causes aside from age contributed to the structure’s deterioration.