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Hardcastle Avenue railroad intersection in downtown will be redesigned for safety

INDEPENDENT PHOTO: JULIA COMNES - The railroad crossing at Hardcastle Avenue will be redesigned to make it safer for drivers, especially truck drivers.
The city of Woodburn is planning a redesign of the railroad crossing at the intersection of Hardcastle Avenue and Front Street. According to the city's public works director, the crossing's current configuration is hazardous, especially to truck drivers attempting to navigate the turn across the track.

The crossing, which features one railroad track intersecting with the two-lane Hardcastle Avenue, requires drivers traveling from Hardcastle to turn either left or right onto Front Street without stopping. The problem, according to Eric Liljequist, the city's public works director, comes from the fact that Hardcastle does not intersect the tracks at a perpendicular angle.

"The intersection of Hardcastle Avenue and Front Street join together in a skewed manner, which makes truck turning movements more difficult, especially during peak-hour travel times," reads a staff report from the Dec. 11 City Council meeting. "The culmination of this project will result in a perpendicular intersection configuration, enabling improved truck turning movements. Also included in this project are sidewalk improvements that will allow safer pedestrian movements through this intersection."

Over the years, the railroad crossing has been the site of a number of railroad accidents, according to data from the Federal Railroad Administration, including at least one casualty.

In December 2011, a tractor-trailer driving down Hardcastle was hit by a Union Pacific train, according to a Federal Railroad Administration report. The truck had stopped on the tracks before the gates descended. The driver was uninjured, but the crash caused an estimated $10,000 in damage to his vehicle.

And in August 2009, a pedestrian was killed by a Union Pacific Freight Train at the crossing. A 24-year-old Woodburn man was hit by the train in the early morning hours of Aug. 31. According to witnesses, the victim had been trying to run across the tracks when he was hit. Police said at the time that it was believed the pedestrian misjudged the train's distance.

And in March 1992, a truck stopped on the crossing was hit by a Southern Pacific Transportation Company freight train, according to a Federal Railroad Administration report. The driver left the vehicle before the crash and was uninjured, but the train caused an estimated $2,000 in damage.

At the Dec. 11 meeting, the Woodburn City Council authorized the city to award a personal service contract to PBS Engineering & Environmental, Inc. The contract, which will cover the costs of design engineering, railroad coordination and construction management, is in the amount of $214,660.

According to the staff report, the city decided to hire an engineering consultant firm that could bring in the specialized help needed to accurately and efficiently coordinate and manage the project, which comes with inherent risks because it requires railroad crossing relocations.

The Personal Service Contract will be funded from the approved 2017-18 fiscal year budget, using street funds and street SDC funds.

According to 2016 data from the Federal Railroad Administration, the crossing sees an annual average of 4,100 vehicles, 10 percent of which are estimated to be trucks.

"The Woodburn Fertilizer (Wilbur-Ellis) plant's there, and there's a lot of activity there, especially at certain times of the year," Liljequist said at the Dec. 11 meeting. "I think it will be a significant safety enhancement. (It's) my most important project, really, for the last five years."

Liljequist said at the meeting that the goal is to have the design and initial stages of the project done by spring or summer 2018, with construction taking place later.

Julia Comnes can be reached at 503-765-1195 or This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it..
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