The City of Eugene is moving forward on safety improvements at 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 with various types of intersection structures (see map).
The Railroad Quiet Zone project, which was initiated in 2015, 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.
“City staff members are so happy to have cleared this hurdle and to have the certainty that allows us to proceed,” said Katie Marwitz, principal engineer with Eugene Public Works. “There is more work to be done with Union Pacific but the crossing order is an important milestone in the project.”
The City expects 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.
Eight of the crossings designated for safety improvements will be changed to a “quad gate” style, meaning there are two gate arms on each side of the tracks instead of single arms as they are now. Jefferson Street will be changed to one-way going south for the section that crosses the railroad tracks; the Lawrence Street intersection will see the addition of medians.
In addition to improving safety at the 10 intersections where car, bike and pedestrian traffic crosses railroad tracks, the upgrades will allow train operators to forgo blowing the train horn when approaching the crossings, potentially resulting in a 70% decrease in the train horn noise in Eugene. Trains still will use short horn blasts around the switching yard and the Eugene Depot and have the discretion to sound the horn in emergency situations.
“As we are able to increase momentum on this project, we will continue to be in regular contact with adjacent property owners and other interested parties,” Marwitz said. “We worked with a citizen advisory committee way back in 2015-2016, and city funding was approved in 2018, so everyone is eager to see this project finally move forward after clearing this latest hurdle.”
For a map of the approved intersection safety improvements, detailed schematics of the changes and background information, visit the Railroad Quiet Zone project website.