Eugene moves forward with railroad 'quiet zones'

The total price tag is expected to approach $8 million.

Posted: Feb. 27, 2018 12:10 AM
Updated: Feb. 27, 2018 12:19 AM

EUGENE, Ore. -- The Eugene city council moved forward on its long-stated goal of reducing train noise in the downtown core and Whiteaker neighborhoods.

In a split vote on Monday evening, the council voted to approve an initial $3.7 million for three railroad crossings near the Willamette River. Councilors also directed city manager Jon Ruiz to find millions in next year's budget for seven other crossings further west.

Improvements to the eastern three crossings will be paid for using money from the riverfront urban renewal district (RURD), which councilors voted to expand. The western crossings, which will cost an additional $4 million, will be paid for using money from the road and general obligation funds.

Councilor Betty Taylor voted against the entire project, saying the money could be spent in better ways. She also railed against expanding the RURD, regardless of noise.

"My biggest objection to urban renewal is, one, it never dies, it tends to creep and expand," Taylor said. "And the money is too easy to spend without public process."

Councilor Emily Semple also voted against expanding the RURD, but said she generally supports the concept of quiet zones.

Even with the votes, officials said changes won't happen anytime soon. Managers from Union Pacific have said it's a three-year process to change railroad crossings.

But once construction is done, train engineers won't have to blow their horns under ordinary circumstances, which should reduce noise in the city. Councilors and city officials hope the more peaceful environment will encourage housing developments at the former EWEB site and in other areas.

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