Railroad Quiet Zone
In the spring of 2018, Eugene City Council approved funding for the construction of a Railroad Quiet Zone in Downtown Eugene and the Whiteaker neighborhood. Once in place, the quiet zone expects to eliminate about 70 percent of the overall train horn noise throughout Eugene.
Creating a whistle-free zone is about improving safety. When engineers blow their train horns, they are trying to alert people of an approaching train. The Railroad Quiet Zone (RRQZ) project is meant to keep people walking, biking and driving off the tracks as a train approaches.
Working with local residents, business owners, train safety experts, and other community leaders, City staff came up with improvements at each of the ten crossings inside the proposed quiet zone. Changes will include medians, quad gates, converting Jefferson Street to a one-way street, pedestrian gates, and several other safety improvements.
Latest Project Information - *Updated September 2023*
The City of Eugene is moving forward on safety improvements at the 10 downtown railroad crossings after the Oregon Department of Transportation issued a crossing order earlier this year. City engineers are now incorporating ODOT’s order into construction drawings for upgrades to the current crossings.
The process has been stymied for years because of an impasse with Union Pacific Railroad, the owner of the railway crossings identified for improvements. With the issuance of ODOT’s order, the City now has two years to get construction substantially under way.
The City aims to have the construction project out for bid in late 2024, with construction to start in early 2025 as long as the permit process goes smoothly.
Final Crossing Designs
- Van Buren Street – quad gates
- Monroe Street – quad gates
- Madison Street – quad gates
- Jefferson Street – one-way southbound between 1st and 5th Avenues
- Washington Street – quad gates
- Lawrence Street – medians
- Lincoln Street – quad gates
- Pearl Street – quad gates
- High Street – quad gates
- 8th & Hilyard – quad gates
- Fencing, in conjunction with pedestrian gates, are proposed throughout the quiet zone to improve safety by keeping pedestrians and other vulnerable populations off the tracks.
Total estimated cost of the safety measures is $7 to $10 million.
In addition to establishing a train horn quiet zone in the Whiteaker and downtown areas, Eugene is working on several related railroad projects: supporting the Downtown Riverfront redevelopment and supporting a new Amtrak siding west of Willamette Street. Each project has its unique requirements and objectives, but each project impinges on the others:
- The City is moving forward with the transformation of the Downtown Riverfront Property. The railroad crossing at 8th Ave & Hilyard Street provides a critical link to the redevelopment site. More information on the project can be found here: Downtown Riverfront
- Constructing a new siding for Amtrak trains west of the Eugene Depot would be a state rail project. Staff is confirming the status of planning and funding this major project. When the siding is constructed, the closure of at least one street (currently proposed to be Lawrence Street) would likely be required to accommodate the installation of siding operational equipment. One closure could satisfy both the relocation and the siding closure requirements.
The Eugene Public Works Department formed an 11 member citizen advisory panel to provide input on the creation of a Railroad Quiet Zone (RRQZ) Downtown Eugene and the Whiteaker neighborhood. The group met approximately five times over a period of several months to gather information, discuss options, and agree on recommendations that were forwarded to the Eugene City Council.
The charge of the citizen panel was two-fold:
- Provide a recommendation to Public Works staff for supplemental safety measures each crossing in the rail corridor between Hilyard Street and Van Buren Street.
- Provide a recommendation for funding supplemental safety measures.
RRQZ Advisory Panel Members
- Sam Hahn, Whiteaker Community Council (Brad Foster, alternate)
- Sherrill Necessary, Downtown Neighbors Association (Doug Partridge, alternate)
- Kelsey Weilbrenner, Residents directly affected (east end)
- Jonathan Brandt, Residents generally interested (Larry Deckman, alternate)
- Ron Saylor, Business owners (west end)
- Jeff Althouse, Business owners (west end) (Tom Moseman, alternate)
- Casey Barrett, Business owners (east end)
- Sue Wolling, People who bike, walk or use transit
- Brittany Quick-Warner, Chamber of Commerce
- Bill Randall, Planning Commission
- Eugene Organ, People with disabilities
- Draft Public Engagement Plan
- Overview presentation
- Meeting notes
In November 2015, City staff convened a stakeholder advisory panel to provide input on the proposed creation of the Railroad Quiet Zone (RRQZ) in Downtown Eugene and the Whiteaker neighborhood. The charge of the RRQZ Citizen Advisory Panel was to review various safety measures required for the City of Eugene to apply for designation as a train-horn quiet zone. The advisory panel also considered options for funding the safety measures.
The following documents were created as City staff worked with the Citizen Advisory Panel and key stakeholders in the process of researching the RRQZ. The reports and related materials were delivered to the Eugene City Council to help inform their decision.
- Memo to City Council on recommended phasing for potential railroad quiet zone (July 16, 2015)
- City Council work session update on railroad quiet zone (March 9, 2015), and minutes
- City Council work session on railroad quiet zone (Oct. 8, 2014), and minutes
- City Council work session on railroad quiet zone (June 26, 2006)
- City Council work session on railroad crossing quiet zones (July 20, 2005)
Over the course of six meetings, City staff and the Citizen Advisory Panel developed preliminary recommendations for safety measures at 10 crossings. Those recommendations have continued to be refined and negotiated with local businesses as well as the Oregon Department of Transportation Rail Division, Federal Rail Administration, and Union Pacific Railroad.