It was a historical day for Lodi on Wednesday morning as crews blocked off lanes on Lodi Avenue and began paving over railroad tracks that have been in place for at least 100 years.
The unused tracks between Cherokee Lane and Sacramento Street have been there since before the city was incorporated in 1905, and they have drawn numerous concerns about safety.
"I saw a wreck because of the tracks," said Ricky Maurino, who lives in the 500 block of East Lodi Avenue.
Though that accident was minor, he said it happened because a vehicle slipped on the tracks that ran down the center of the lane.
But on Wednesday morning, Maurino was watering his lawn as paving crews erased the tracks from view. Traffic moved more slowly because lanes were closed, but Maurino was glad to see it finally being done.
The paving project has been in the works for years, and Mayor Phil Pennino has been lobbying for it since he was elected to the city council 12 years ago.
"We had some funding for the project, so it was just a matter of sitting down with (Union Pacific Railroad)," he said.
Through an agreement with the city, the project is being overseen by Union Pacific Railroad, Burlington Northern and Santa Fe Railway Company, along with Central California Traction Company.
"It removes a major safety issue, and that's number one. Number two, it starts enhancing Lodi Avenue, which is an entrance into the city," Pennino said, adding that the council's goal is to continue improving the thoroughfare that runs from east to west through most of Lodi.
The project is just the beginning of a major $7.3 million railway overhaul.
Pennino was out of town Wednesday, but was "excited" about the paving project.
"I'll be driving in today, and I guarantee you that I'll get off 99 and drive down Lodi Avenue," he said.
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