Glenn Street will remain open

The Oregon Department of Transportation has dropped its request that Ashland consider closing the Glenn Street railroad crossing.

The change came because train traffic has been drastically reduced on the Central Oregon and Pacific Railroad tracks that run through town.

In the fall of 2007, the railroad company closed its line between Eugene and Coos Bay, citing safety reasons and diminished use.

The company has raised rates and reduced service on its Siskiyou Line in Southern Oregon, while threatening to stop operations altogether, the Associated Press reported in April.

At the same time the railroad was asking the state for money to reopen the Coos Bay to Eugene line, its parent company &

Fortress Investment Group &

loaned $24 million to Michael Jackson for his Neverland ranch. The state has rejected the railroad's request for money, the AP said.

Ashland residents testified in November and December 2007 that Glenn Street, which crosses over the railroad tracks, is the quickest route to Ashland Community Hospital and people's jobs in Medford.

One man said he had an extreme allergic reaction and used the street to reach the hospital. He said doctors told him he would not have survived if he had arrived moments later.

Residents also said closing Glenn Street at the crossing would just cause people to drive longer routes past Helman Elementary School and through dangerous intersections. One woman in a wheelchair said she underwent months of rehabilitation after being in an accident at the intersection of Hersey and North Main Streets.

Residents said closing the Glenn Street crossing would just cause drivers to have to use other railroad crossings in town, leading to no reduction in the number of people traveling over tracks.

ODOT's Rail Division is pushing communities around the state to close railroad crossings because of safety and cost concerns.

In December 2007, the Ashland City Council voted to resist ODOT's efforts to get the Glenn Street crossing closed. They asked city staff to solicit bids for a study to determine the impact on traffic of closing the crossing.

Earlier this week, Interim Public Works Director Jim Olson recommended the council award a $39,095 contract to HBH Consulting Engineers to study traffic patterns at several intersections in the area. Public Works staff negotiated the bid down from $50,682.

Councilors questioned why they should have a study at all in light of ODOT withdrawing its request that the Glenn Street crossing be closed.

Olson said the study would provide valuable information on traffic patterns that could be used for future projects, such as sidewalk improvements on Laurel Street and dealing with the dangerous area where Wimer and Hersey Streets meet up with North Main Street.

If a northbound driver is trying to make a left turn off North Main Street onto Wimer Street while a southbound driver is trying to turn left off North Main Street onto Hersey Street, the drivers block each other.

Olson said the city has asked ODOT for grant money at least three times to help improve the situation, but has always been turned down.

"This will provide us with the valid information we need to get us over the hump when we are in competition with others (for grants)," he said.

Mayor John Morrison said it made sense to study overall traffic patterns at several intersections in that part of town, rather than narrowing down the scope of the study to just a few problem areas.

"That becomes penny wise and pound foolish," he said.

The council voted unanimously to award the $39,095 contract.

Resident Art Bullock said the impetus for the study &

the threatened closure of Glenn Street &

was no longer there.

"This is an inappropriate use of the funds. There's a better use for the funds," he said.

Staff writer can be reached at 479-8199 or To post a comment, visit .

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