ODOT asks Ashland for RR crossing closure

The Oregon Department of Transportation is pushing the city of Ashland to close the Glenn Street railroad crossing to vehicles.

Only bicyclists and pedestrians could cross the railroad tracks at that location.

The potential closure is on the Ashland City Council's agenda for a Tuesday meeting that begins at 7 p.m. in the Ashland Civic Center Council Chambers, 1175 E. Main St.

However, the issue follows what promises to be lengthy public testimony and council discussion about whether to approve a new subdivision near the Ashland Dog Park.

ODOT's Railroad Division is trying to get communities to close potentially dangerous railroad crossings in exchange for money to improve other crossings.

The city of Ashland wants to improve a crossing at Hersey and Laurel streets, but ODOT is strongly recommending that the city close the Glenn Street crossing to vehicles.

ODOT can close crossings without city approval, according to a city staff memo to councilors.

Word of the proposed Glenn Street crossing has drawn complaints from neighbors. The crossing is the shortest way to reach the northbound lanes of North Main Street, also known as Highway 99.

ODOT officials previously asked that the Glenn Street crossing and a leg of Laurel Street be closed. The city's engineering staff resisted that request due to the negative impact on traffic patterns and because Laurel Street is a preferred emergency response route for Ashland Fire Rescue.

In 2006, the City Council rejected an offer of money from ODOT in return for closing both crossings.

Now the council must consider whether to approve a statement of intent to close the Glenn Street crossing.

The closure would eliminate an area where trains and cars could collide, allow the city to move forward with Laurel Street crossing improvements, save money and possibly influence ODOT to let the city extend Fourth Street across the railroad tracks.

But drivers would have to find new routes, boosting traffic at other crossings and on other streets.

City Administrator Martha Bennett said the city has absolutely no intention of closing the Laurel Street crossing now or in the future

"There is no proposal that will come at any time to close Laurel," she said.

Flyers circulated through the neighborhood by a resident have created confusion on the issue.

Mayor John Morrison invited people to come to the council meeting to discuss the possible Glenn Street crossing closure, but emphasized the council does not have time to listen to unwarranted concerns about a Laurel Street crossing closure. For more information on the Glenn Street railroad crossing issue, visit /Files/Council_Communication_Glenn_St.pdf.

Staff writer can be reached at 479-8199 or vlaldous@yahoo.com.

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