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HASSO HERING

A perspective from Oregon’s mid-Willamette Valley

Albany rail project: It’s done!

Written December 23rd, 2014 by Hasso Hering
This new leg of the "wye" was finished but not yet in use in May, when the photo was shot.

This new leg of the “wye” was finished but not yet in use in May, when the photo was shot.

All year long I’ve been wondering and occasionally asking the Portland & Western when the railroad would start using the new section of Albany track that the state gave it nearly $7 million to construct. Now the long-awaited occasion has come and gone, and I missed it.

I had asked about the completion date in emails to Kevin Haugh, the Salem-based general manager of the PNWR. In September he wrote back that it would be soon. And just now, in an email account I did not remember I had but opened by chance, I discovered a message from Haugh dated Dec. 17: “The Santiam Lead in Albany has been commissioned this morning and is now in service.”

This project, with a total cost of about $8.7 million according to ODOT Rail, included expanding the railroad’s Millersburg yard as well as building a section of track paralleling the Union Pacific mainline from Madison to beyond Main Street, a distance of two and a half blocks. It also resulted in the rebuilding of one leg of the wye, the Y-shaped layout that connects the Toledo branch to the east-west rail lines.

Under a contract signed in 2009, ODOT granted the railroad $6,990,516 toward the project under the ConnectOregon II program. Part of the goal was to eliminate delays that sometimes had freights coming off the Toledo branch (across the Willamette River) blocking several streets while they stood and waited for clearance to enter the Union Pacific mainline, which they had to do to get to either the Albany or Millersburg yards. The new track bypasses the mainline, and clearance from the UP is no longer needed for a left turn toward the Millersburg yard.

The rail improvements, it was hoped, would shift train-building to Millersburg and lessen the need to block Queen Avenue south of the Albany yard, a problem that has caused complaints ever since Queen became a main road generations ago. Will it work? I don’t know of any tally of Queen Avenue blockages — either number per day or average duration — so it will be hard to draw any firm conclusions, at least for a while. (hh)



3 responses to “Albany rail project: It’s done!”

  1. Floyd Collins says:

    Thanks to Councilor Ralph Reid, deceased, who fought long and hard to make this happen. Thanks Ralph for the vision and energy to stay with this project. Long term capital improvement take time and last longer than we do. We still honor your wisdom.

  2. Bill Kapaun says:

    I guess blocking Old Salem Rd. is the lesser of 2 evils?

  3. Jim Engel says:

    Until we the public challenge & change the R/R’s thinking about us crossing their private property we will have to “fight” them for any meaningful changes. This would take an act of Congress and that is wishful thinking. Realize that the R/R will continue to assert their right of movement & will block streets as they see fit. All those train make ups could be made out in that gigantic Millersburg yard. Trouble is there is no public entity presently with the force/clout to make them do it. JE

 

 
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