Bridging the gap

Railroad District business owners are asking the city to build a pedestrian bridge, tunnel or walkway from Second Street to Clear Creek Drive to encourage more foot traffic and fewer cars.

Ninety business owners and employees, most of whom work on Clear Creek Drive and Hersey Street, signed a petition in the last month requesting the route over or under the railroad tracks.

The Transportation Commission is scheduled to discuss the petition at a Dec. 16 meeting.

Organizers Janet Rueger and Karen McClintock, who share an office building on Clear Creek Drive, sent the petition to the city last week.

"From my office, I can see the tracks, and I watch people all day trying to get through," McClintock said. "There's got to be a way to make a crossing across the railroad tracks."

For the last two years, boxcars have been parked on the tracks, making getting across them an acrobatic challenge, McClintock said. Central Oregon and Pacific Railroad closed the line in 2008 after shippers balked at rate increases, but trains occasionally run on the tracks.

Regardless of the boxcars, walking on the tracks is considered to be trespassing on Union Pacific property and is illegal, said Jim Olson, the city's engineering services manager.

He said in order to build a bridge, walkway or tunnel from Second Street to Clear Creek Drive, the city would need to secure an easement from Union Pacific and, likely, other nearby private property owners.

"The biggest problem is we have private property to cross and railroad property to cross and we don't have easements to cross those," Olson said. "Either one of those entities could say, 'Take a hike. We don't want to deal with it.' And that will be as far as it goes."

Union Pacific has been reluctant to grant easements in the past, he said.

Even if the rail company granted the easement, building the route would be a long and probably expensive ordeal, Olson said.

"I know working with the railroad is a very, very slow process," he said. "If everything fell together, I'd say we're still two to four years out."

Past easement contracts with railroad companies have cost the city as much as $100,000 per mile, Olson said.

Olson said he doesn't think building a tunnel or bridge would be feasible, because both are expensive and likely wouldn't draw as much foot traffic as a simple walkway across the tracks.

"I certainly wouldn't recommend a bridge because I don't think it would be that well used and it's extremely expensive," he said. "And I don't think a tunnel would be possible, because it would be hard to get rid of the water there."

McClintock, a psychologist, said she hopes the city and rail company can come to an agreement that allows people to easily cross the tracks.

"I think if we just talk it out, we ought to be able to come up with a good solution," she said. "Mediation is possible."

Rueger, a chiropractor, said the proposed route would benefit nearby residents, customers and employees.

"There's a lot of traffic that wants to go from there to where we all are on Clear Creek and Hersey," Rueger said. "A lot of people want to run to the hardware store or co-op or other business on A Street."

Having a path between Second Street and Clear Creek Drive would encourage more people to walk or bike, instead of driving, between the two streets, she said.

"A lot of us are driving because we don't have the time to walk around, and that's a flagrant environmental waste," she said. "We're trying to have less environmental impact and reduce the amount of traffic."

The city is trying to improve bike and pedestrian routes while it remakes its Transportation System Plan, and officials will consider the path suggested in the petition, said Eric Heesacker, Transportation Commission chairman.

"Anytime there's a crossing that provides more pedestrian connectivity, I'm all for that, but I also know that these are very hard things to get across the railroad tracks," he said.

Heesacker said the commission will invite all 90 petition signers to the Dec. 16 meeting, which begins at 6 p.m. in the Siskiyou Room of the Community Development Building, 51 Winburn Way. It's unclear whether commissioners will vote on the matter at the meeting.

"We're certainly going to look at it," Heesacker said. "Will it go anywhere? I don't know. That remains to be seen."

Contact reporter Hannah Guzik at 541-482-3456, ext. 226, or

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