Deserted tracks lull drivers into false security

Train whistles sounded in Ashland last month, serving — officials hope — as a reminder that the rail line bisecting the city is still active.

Central Oregon and Pacific Railroad stopped regularly running freight trains through Ashland in 2008, leaving dozens of boxcars stored on the tracks.

Now, city and rail officials worry the infrequency of trains has led locals to be more careless when crossing the tracks.

"At the uncontrolled intersections at rail crossings, I think people get complacent with the lack of trains coming through," said Sgt. Jim Alderman with the Ashland Police Department.

Cars sometimes speed through stop signs at railroad crossings in Ashland because trains are so rare in the city, he said.

CORP does not have any scheduled service through Ashland, but occasionally trains or maintenance cars drive on the tracks said Donia Crime, a spokeswoman for CORP.

"The rail line is still active which means that trains can operate on any track at any time in any direction," Crime said in an e-mail message. "Therefore, people must be mindful and remain alert when using railroad crossings whether walking or driving across the tracks."

The railroad tracks and boxcars are private property and people can be cited for trespassing on them, Alderman said.

It's possible trains could run through Ashland more frequently in the future. Ashland is working with the California towns of Weed and Montague to lease or buy the portion of the railroad line that runs over the Siskiyous.

Central Oregon and Pacific Railroad closed the line in 2008 after shippers balked at rate increases.

The cities have drafted a joint-powers-of-authority agreement as the Siskiyou Regional Railroad Authority, and they are seeking $16 million to acquire the 90-mile right-of-way, said Ashland City Councilman David Chapman, who has been working on the project for more than a year.

Meanwhile, Ashland residents should be cautious when crossing the tracks, Alderman said.

"You've got to remember the railroad can use the tracks for purposes other than trains, such as maintenance trucks," he said. "Just because you don't hear a train coming or hear a train whistle, doesn't mean there's not a vehicle driving on the tracks."

Contact staff writer Hannah Guzik at 482-3456 ext. 226 or

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