An 8-year-old legal battle between Alhambra and the Southern Pacific Railroad has ended with the city paying the railroad $6.8 million, according to City Manager Kevin Murphy.
The lawsuit stems from a joint project between the city, the railroad and the state to eliminate grade crossings along Mission Boulevard, Murphy said.
Previously, the tracks had been at street level, contributing to traffic congestion at crossings. The project called for lowering the tracks 25 to 30 feet below ground level and building eight bridges to carry traffic over the tracks.
The city had proposed the project, completed in 1977 for $19.5 million, mainly to ease the city's north-south traffic flow, he said.
A dispute began when the railroad asked to be reimbursed for granting the city a temporary construction easement and for what it described as decreased property values resulting from the project. The railroad asked for $6 million, but the city was willing to pay only $1 million.
The case, begun with a lawsuit filed in 1980, ended after a monthlong trial in July, 1987, when a jury awarded the railroad $6 million plus interest, for a total of $9 million. When the city announced that it planned to appeal the decision, the railroad agreed to a $6.8-million settlement, which the city paid two weeks ago.
"The company was interested in accepting cash now rather than waiting for a period of time," said Anthony Parrille, attorney for the Southern Pacific Transportation Co. He said an appeal could have taken several more years.
"The railroad is happy that it got compensation for its property," Parrille said.
Despite the long legal battle, the project was worth it, Murphy said. Before it was completed, he said, residents traveling from the north end of town to the south faced lengthy delays when trains passed. The trains also impeded response time of police and fire teams, he said.