Train noise endemic to Woodburn
Could Woodburn ever become a railroad "quiet zone?"
A quiet zone is a corridor where passing trains do not sound their horns, save in emergency or perilous situations. After years and planning and working toward the goal, a part of Salem from near downtown into north Salem achieved quiet-zone status. But it came at a price, as so it would in Woodburn as well.
"For Woodburn we are particularly impacted differently than in Salem and Canby, primarily because of the location of the railroad through town. We have a busy commercial street surrounded by schools and residential neighborhoods," Woodburn City Administrator Scott Derickson advised the city council.
Derickson created an updated informational report on what would be required to achieve quiet-zone status. Chief among the process are infrastructural improvements aimed at safety, including fortified crossing guards and other warning devices. Street crossings are tricky; throw in schools, neighborhoods and a parallel downtown street and it becomes more so.
"This effort would be comparable to an interchange kind of a project. If we wanted to pursue it, it would take a long time and it would require $6 million. Pretty difficult process to achieve that."
The report noted that 35 trains pass through Woodburn daily. Federal Railroad Administration requires trains to sound their hors for 15 to 20 seconds in advance of crossings. Woodburn has 5 of those crossings, including 4 between Cleveland and Hardcastle streets, leaving little to no gap between horn blares.
While the city has fielded complaints about noise, either the horns or other rumblings from the track, it's the nature of the beast.
"We live in a town with a train running through it," Mayor Eric Swenson said, analogizing it to similar complaints he's heard from people who live, say, near sports stadiums.
Salem's quiet zone extends over 12 crossings, from Mill Street SE to Silverton Road NE. It took advocates a decade, plus change, to achieve it; Salem City Council began looking into it in January of 2002; they achieved their first stretch (though not all of it) in July of 2013.
The city also launched a Railroad Crossing Safety Improvement Advisory Committee dedicated to securing the quiet zone. Salem's zone cost $2.6 million in crossing improvements, which were funded through the Streets and Bridges Bond Measure, approved by voters in 2008.
What would it take for Woodburn to achieve this over its 5 crossings?
"Should we come into an extra 6-to-10 million dollars, we could take a run at it," Derickson said.