Well, here’s a surprise likely to be welcomed by Albany motorists: After planned improvements were delayed year after year, the uneven railroad crossing on Queen Avenue now will be fixed in a matter of months.
The surprise announcement came from Staci Belcastro, the city engineer, on Wednesday night. She was telling the city council about a $350,000 allocation of federal Covid relief funds toward a project to improve Queen Avenue from Pacific Boulevard to Marion Street, scheduled to coincide with ODOT’s plan for crossing improvements next year or in 2024.
The good news, Belcastro said, was that ODOT had a meeting with the Union Pacific and the Portland & Western railroads, resulting in temporary repairs being made sooner.
How much sooner, Councilman Dick Olsen wanted to know. “It might happen next month,” Belcastro said. Or in four to six weeks, she added
For more details, let’s turn to Chris Cerklewski, an engineer in Albany Public Works who is involved in the preparation for the crossing fix.
“The ODOT Rail Division has initiated an interim crossing repair on Queen Avenue since the condition of the crossing surface has deteriorated enough that they don’t want to wait for the permanent changes planned for 2023 or 2024,” he wrote in an email. “The existing asphalt and rubber crossing surfaces will be removed and replaced with new asphalt by the Portland & Western Railroad.”
Whatever this costs will be paid by ODOT. The city will arrange for traffic control when the crossing has to be closed for a few days while the work is done.
There’s no definite date yet, but Cerklewski expects the repairs to be completed “in the next couple of months,” and the city will give the public advance notice when the date is set.
This will be a temporary fix. Permanent repairs are still planned later, to be done in conjunction with the Queen Avenue improvements, which include replacing a water line, resurfacing the pavement, and making curbs at street corners comply with the Americans with Disabilities Act. The job is estimated to cost $2.7 million, and it’s the project for which the city has been allocated $350,000 in Covid funds by the Albany Area Metropolitan Planning Organization.
There are four railroad tracks across Queen. One is the UP main line. The other three are part of the Queen Avenue yard.
For the permanent repairs, Cerklewski says, the three yard tracks will be completely removed and replaced and the UP track will be adjusted to “better match the surface of Queen Avenue. In addition, the railroad crossing signals will be upgraded and sidewalks extended across the tracks to improve safety. ODOT is paying for the permanent repairs as well as handling the design and construction work.”
There have been two reasons for drivers to avoid this crossing if they can: fear of vehicle damage from the bumpy surface, and the likelihood of long delays while the crossing arms are down. Once the repairs are done, there will be only one. (hh)