August 10, 2022—A study recently evaluated rail crossings throughout Columbia County and identified what safety improvements can be made in both the short and long term. Several local communities and private businesses joined together to commission the Columbia County Rail Safety and Mobility Study, with the Port of Columbia County representing the public-private partnership.
“The rail line is an important economic driver in our county, supporting multiple businesses that employ hundreds of people,” said Sean Clark, the port’s executive director. “We are also aware that by bisecting multiple cities, the rail can present potential challenges.”
The study was divided into two phases. The first phase evaluated each of the 48 crossings located within the county rail corridor and categorized them based on safety, traffic delay, and concerns from the local communities. Phase two developed a matrix of improvement alternatives for each crossing.
Many crossings would benefit from a combination of upgrading the crossing conditions and the implementation of passive or active warning devices to restrict movement across the tracks.
The construction of a grade-separated crossing, or overpass, was analyzed within a half mile of the Gable Road crossing in St. Helens. A concept drawing summarizes the scale and potential impacts associated with an overpass project, at an estimated cost of $61 million.
“An overpass is something that we often hear as a possible solution, so we asked what that concept could look like and what it would cost,” said Clark. “A lot more work would need to be done before a project of this magnitude could move forward.”
The study proposes a quiet zone at the High School Way crossing in Scappoose, due to the proximity of several schools. Required safety measures for the quiet zone to be approved include the installation of medians or channelization devices, one-way streets with gates, and four quadrant gate systems.
The quiet zone could alternatively extend throughout the city, from Havlik Drive to Crown Zellerbach Road, requiring upgrades to all the crossings located within the zone.
An action plan provides near to long-term crossing projects and outlines the next steps.
Clark said, “The jurisdictions will have to review the suggested improvements and decide which they want to pursue. This study provides a foundation and is designed to support grant requests to advance future crossing projects.”
The final report for the Columbia County Rail Safety and Mobility Study is available at https://www.portofcolumbiacounty.org/business-and-development/page/columbia-county-rail-safety-mobility-study.