A perspective from Oregon’s mid-Willamette Valley

Stuck on Queen, and seeing the danger

Written May 23rd, 2024 by Hasso Hering

A familiar sight: Queen Avenue blocked by a freight train being assembled in the Albany yard on May 23, 2024.

On bike rides around Albany I usually avoid  Queen Avenue because of the rail crossing south of the Albany yard. On Thursday afternoon I did go that way and witnessed motorists practicing amazing patience while the crossing was blocked for what seemed like a very long time.

As for me, I sat down on a chunk of concrete, pulled out the phone and recorded this:

I got there when the crossing was already closed, and it was still blocked when my right arm raising the phone wanted to call it quits. The driver of a pickup first in the long line of westbound vehicles told me the gates had been down 35 minutes.

The crossing was blocked for another five minutes, give or take, after he told me that.

Finally, the switch engine pushed all those cars loaded with poles and cut lumber back into the yard and it looked like finally, all of us on foot, on bikes and in vehicles could proceed.

But the gates stayed down, and for a very good reason: A Union Pacific freight was just then barreling through the yard on the main line on its way south. It neared the crossing just as the yard train was past.

In 2014 and ’15, it may have been this very situation — the crossing appears clear but the yard train is blocking the view of a fast-approaching freight on the main line — that got two people killed when they tried to cross the tracks.

Watching the scene Thursday made me realize again how potentially dangerous the present setup is. There is no crossing arm to keep people on the south side of Queen from crossing westbound even though trains are coming.

ODOT has been planning for years to modify the crossing protection on Queen Avenue to prevent this sort of fatal mistake. On Thursday afternoon, all of us waiting there could see how easily something like this could happen again.

But ODOT does not plan to make the change until 2026. (hh)

Waiting in the westbound lanes of Queen Avenue, and on the sidewalk, on Thursday afternoon.

23 responses to “Stuck on Queen, and seeing the danger”

  1. Claudia Testa says:

    Right on! Not only is this dangerous due to long waits but the tracks are so rough to cross that you risk actual car damage. This has gone on for years.

    • Abe Cee says:

      Nothing requires you to travel this stretch of road and go over the tracks. There are numerous alternatives. Yes, they are longer distances to take these routes but they are undoubtedly safer. The safest option would be to just abandon the crossing and terminate the road on each side of the tracks.

  2. Gordon L. Shadle says:

    Thanks for railing about the appearance of sluggishness at ODOT and the possible danger it may cause.

    Please remember that slow rolling Government is our savior. Only it can save us from the fast tracking, money grubbing freight rail capitalists.

    It’s not easy to navigate bureaucratic processes and get multiple signatures on essential paperwork. “Paving cow paths” requires time, distance, and money.

    It will get done….eventually.

    Patience, Hasso, patience.

  3. Mel. says:

    Doesn’t Oregon have a law about the length of time a train can block a crossing?

    Of course this would not apply in an emergency situation.


  4. James Engel says:

    AND, it will continue for years to come as the RR considers “We” are crossing “their” private property! This sham was started in the late 1800’s to encourage RR growth. The Feds gave great swaths of land to the RR and until our present Gov changes it we are stuck as they can block the crossing for as long as they want.

  5. Eldon says:

    I always look both ways before crossing.

  6. M Web says:

    I thought they changed the rules and even posted signs saying that the wait couldn’t be more than like 10 minutes…?

  7. Cathy Baker says:

    I never drive Queen. I have more important things to do with my time. 40 minutes wait for a train to move, no way. And they are only supposed to bock for 20 minutes.

  8. Sharon Bills says:

    at some point in time they couldn’t block the crossing for more than 10 or 15 minutes(memory failed me). If would take longer, they were to “break the train”! for crossing traffic.
    Don’t know who’s rule it was. But it worked much better than this mess.

  9. avidreader69 says:

    They either need to make an overpass or an underpass. This is a shortcut through town, and yes, it’s really used a lot. Start a referendum!

    • Nick Cutting says:

      Do you realize just how much room is required to change the level of the road to either go over or under railroad track? All you have to do is look a little to the north up Pacific to the existing location where the roads go over the railroad tracks. The distance required to do the same thing on Queen is completely unrealistic in the short space between Pacific Blvd and the railroad tracks.

      • Matthew Calhoun says:

        Nick, Nick, Nick. Hasso’s readers never let logic or facts get in the way of a good emotional rant in the comments section. It reinforces their grumpiness and gives them the strength to hold on for one more day.

  10. Doug says:

    I was on the other side of the railroad tracks and saw that kid jump the train.
    Which is very very
    I know 1 person that did that that lost the lower part of his leg.. You should have stuck around for the noise from the new train horn.

  11. Cheryl P says:

    Let me see if I understand the situation…even though there is a gate for motorized traffic, there is no gate for pedestrian traffic and one is supposedly needed because pedestrians are too stupid to know that if the main gate is down, there is a reason. And you folks that a gate is going to really going to stop stupid people?!? The same stupid people who would work their vehicles around gate…because I have seen them do that.

    We ALL know about the rail yard. We ALL know what Queen is like during the day. So why are you all blaming the City and the railroad for YOUR choices?

    • Linda Parker says:

      Surely you’ve seen current gas prices…and you ask why folks don’t just add another 1/2 mile or more to every trip across town?

  12. Connie says:

    I recall the railroad suing the city over the signs limiting blockage time. The city lost and the signs came down.

    Anymore I just take the out of the way route down 34th street adding almost two miles to my round trips. At least heading back east to go home I can quickly scope out the presence of a train as I approach the Queen/Pacific light. If the coast is clear I might chance that left turn onto Queen but a lot can happen during the light cycle before my turn comes…

  13. Peggy Jones says:

    They should move it to where they thought they would have an lntermodal place

  14. Delores Ebert says:

    This has been going on as long as I’ve been a driver.(1978) I learned to quit using Queen long ago. There have been too many fatalities there. I called the number years ago, after a 30 minute wait. Waste of time. I thought all this was to move to Millersburg. What happened with that?

  15. GrapeApe says:

    I think they should put a flashing warning light on Pacific Blvd in both directions letting people know that there is a train there. This would stop the backing up on queen and Pacific Blvd. I have been stuck in right lane by taco bell wondering why traffic wasn’t moving in right lane but not left because people were waiting to turn maybe a flashing light stating no turn on flashing light. This would let people know that there’s a train. We can wait for government to do something but in mean time this would be the safest. As for east queen street heading west towards west Albany high school. Find a suitable location for a flashing light maybe marion st. so people can be warned ahead of time so that side doesn’t backup. Don’t believe anything will ever be done with the RR crossing but this would prevent congestion

  16. Mark S. says:

    They can attach a arm on back side of arm that when the arm goes down. For pedestrian and cyclists. Paint it red n orange so it’s visible. When I was younger there was grey block shaped on back of arm assuming it was a counterbalance on arm looking at arm in picture I didn’t see they had these anymore. But like what was stated earlier people would go around or under them.

  17. linda c says:

    As kids in the mid 60s, we always hoped a train would be blocking there at Queen. Where the driving school is now was the Spud Nut shop (donuts). We were told that if we were good in church and there was a train blocking, we would spend the waiting time in there. Back then we always wanted a train there.

  18. Robert Cox says:

    OK enough about that crossing. Let’s address the train conductor that pulls on that horn cord as hard as he can for the last honk for a solid 10sec. At 3:00am . Sometimes 5 & 6 times from 1am -5am. WHY? If flashing lights , a ringing bell and cross arms down don’t do it then that loud 10sec blaring horn is not going to help either.

    • Ray Kopczynski says:

      Why? RR requirement: 2 long, 1 short, 1 long. (Morse code “Q”) 7-10 seconds total is not unusual…


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