A perspective from Oregon’s mid-Willamette Valley

How to reduce crossing waits

Written March 17th, 2018 by Hasso Hering

Mid-day on March 15: The switching engine was moving left and then stopped, yet the gates remained down.

One little change in operations would reduce the number of traffic delays at Albany’s Queen Avenue railroad crossing, and thus cut down on complaints about long waits as well.

At least that’s what I’m thinking after watching for a while as the bike and I were standing at the notorious crossing the other day, waiting for the gates to go back up. Notorious? Yes, frequent complaints about long delays on Queen Avenue go back at least to the 1970s and the days of the Southern Pacific.

On the day, the Portland & Western switch engine was pushing a number of cars back into the yard to the north of Queen Avenue. It had cleared the crossing and stopped well north of the street. For the couple of minutes the track was free, yet the gates remained down, and traffic remained blocked. Then the engine started south again, crossing the street and continuing some distance before stopping and reversing course, eventually clearing the crossing by 100 yards or so and allowing the gates to go back up and traffic to flow.

The change I would advocate: Fix the wiring so that when the crossing is clear and the engine is stopped or going away into the yard, the gates can go up for the couple of minutes it takes before the engine comes back. The queues in both directions on Queen would not get as long, and the waits would be less.

As long as the crossing is clear, even by just a few feet, there’s no reason to keep traffic waiting as long as the switch engine is stopped or moving away from the street. Maybe railroad regulations say something else, but that’s the way it seems to me, standing there in the wind on a cold day in March. (hh)

8 responses to “How to reduce crossing waits”

  1. David says:

    Not that simple between the island circuit the train speed prediction circuit and the requirement for the gates to be down 20-30 seconds before train occupies the crossing.

    Simple solution BUILD A BRIDGE or DIG A UNDERPASS

  2. Ray Kopczynski says:

    Actually, it’s much more simple…

    If you hadn’t (or couldn’t) anticipate the stop, as you pull up and do stop, that would be the time to actually turn on your music, then pull out your cell phone, and relax.

    I have found it very-very rare that one could not actually see the “blockage” far enough in advance to detour.

    As far as building the underpass/overpass — sure — got an extra $20+ million to spend and many-many years to make it happen? That is (and will be) a bottleneck issue as south Albany develops — and there’s the need for better crossing of Ellingson Rd SE. hence the already built light at 53rd…

    • Hasso Hering says:

      Not to be too much of a stickler, cell phone use would be unlawful as long as you’re waiting in traffic at the crossing. You’d have to pull into a parking place and turn off your engine in order to comply with the new restrictions on using digital communications devices, as far as I understand the 2017 law on the subject. (hh)

      • Ray Kopczynski says:

        While I don’t “pull off,” I do turn off my engine. I guess I’ll call that an act of civil disobedience? :-)

    • Gothic Albany says:

      Turn on the music???? That is a vintage SD7, very few are left in the wild. Better yet stop the engine and roll down the windows to hear that non-turbocharged EMD 567 prime mover purr. Train Enthusiasts from all over North America (and the world) head to that crossing to see 1501 strut her stuff.


  3. Tim Siddiqui says:

    Hardly enough room for a run up ramp for a bridge or an underpass.?

  4. Lou Thelen says:

    The locomotive probably just needed just a few more feet to clear the crossing circuit but often that distance is just not possible. And, it takes about 10 – 12 seconds (I know, it doesn’t sound like much) for the crossing’s electronics to recognize that the locomotive has cleared the circuit.


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