Railroad Quiet Zone
In the spring of 2018, Eugene City Council approved funding for the construction of a railroad quiet zone in downtown (RRQZ) Eugene and the Whiteaker neighborhood. Once in place, the quiet zone will silence the train horns through the heart of our city and eliminate about 70 percent of the overall train horn noise in Eugene.
Creating a whistle-free zone is really about improving safety. When engineers blow their train horns, they’re trying to alert people of an approaching train. This project is meant to keep people, bikes and cars off the tracks as a train approaches.
Working with local residents, business owners, train safety experts, and other community leaders, the City 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, and several pedestrian gates.
Work is expected to cost about $7.7 million and the quiet zone should be in place in 2021.
RRQZ Preliminary Recommendations
In November 2015, the Eugene Public Works Department convened an 11-member stakeholder group to provide input on the proposed creation of a railroad quiet zone (RRQZ) in the north downtown and Whiteaker areas of Eugene. The charge of the RRQZ Citizen Advisory Panel is to review various safety measures required for the City of Eugene to apply for designation as a train-horn quiet zone. The group is also considering options for funding the safety measures.
Over the course of six meetings, the group developed preliminary recommendations for safety measures at 10 crossings:
- Van Buren Street – medians
- Monroe Street – quad gates
- Madison Street – quad gates
- Jefferson Street – one-way southbound between First and Fifth avenues
- Washington Street – quad gates
- Lawrence Street – medians
- Lincoln Street – medians
- Pearl Street – quad gates
- High Street – quad gates
- Hilyard Street – return Eighth Avenue to original alignment and construct roundabout on the EWEB Riverfront property
- Approximately 7,000 lineal feet of fencing to improve safety by keeping pedestrians off the tracks.
Total estimated cost of the preliminary recommended safety measures ranges between $6,835,000 and $7,350,000. Options for funding these costs are outlined in a financial strategies memo to the citizen panel.
In addition to establishing a train horn quiet zone in the Whiteaker and downtown areas, Eugene is working on several related railroad projects: relocating the rail crossing on Eighth Avenue near Hilyard Street; 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:
- Relocating the rail crossing on Eighth Avenue is needed to make the EWEB riverfront property more conducive to development. The relocation requires the approval of Union Pacific Railroad and state rail agencies. A condition of the relocation is the closure of at least one other at-grade rail crossing.
- 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) probably would be required to accommodate the installation of siding operational equipment. One closure could satisfy both the relocation and the siding closure requirements.