Signal delays A-B Street corridor in Auburn

Auburn’s planned opening of the A-B Street corridor is being held up by Burlington Northern Santa Fe Railroad’s demand for a fully-signalized crossing.  - Robert Whale/Auburn Reporter
Auburn’s planned opening of the A-B Street corridor is being held up by Burlington Northern Santa Fe Railroad’s demand for a fully-signalized crossing.
— image credit: Robert Whale/Auburn Reporter

Two dates have come and gone for the A-B Street corridor to open, and it is not.

What gives?

The holdup is Burlington Northern Santa Fe Railroad's last-minute demand for a fully-signalized railroad crossing over the spur between the parts of one company's operation.

Twice a week, typically between 11 p.m. and 4 a.m., Mohawk Northern Plastics, which does business as AMPAC at 701 A St. NE, transports loads of chemicals over a private railroad spur from one part of its plant to another.

The private crossing must be changed to a public crossing. At this moment, Mohawk Northern Plastics, which built its section of the A-B Street corridor first, is on the hook for the $350,000 tab to install that fully-signalized crossing.

The City and company officials are set to discuss these issues with the Utilities and Transportation Commission at a hearing later this month.

"Right now, the City of Auburn is taking the lead, and we are supporting their efforts," said Richard Shaw, general manager of Mohawk Northern Plastics doing as AMPAC. "That effort is to be able to continue operating this rail spur in the manner that have been operating it.

"... We hope that the protections that we put in place prior to the opening are satisfactory to the relative risk of servicing the factory at that time," Shaw said. "We're working with the state, with the owner of property we're renting and with the City to come up with a scenario that works for everybody.

City officials are not as polite about the matter. Their response to BNSF was when traffic ramps up to the point where the spur becomes a problem, OK, but until there is a problem, don't make a problem, said Mayor Pete Lewis.

"A week before the opening," said Lewis "and BNSF says it wants full bars and lights across this. I told them it's dumb. ... There's a new person in charge of projects at BNSF in Seattle who doesn't want to budge. Their approach is 'if there's a new road and we say so, that's what we are going to do.

"...This is not so much costing money as depriving the public of transportation corridor that's long needed," Lewis added of the delay.

Gus Melonas, a spokesman for BNSF, said Tuesday, "We hope to resolve this safety matter in a rapid fashion. The state's and our position is that for safety reasons and with projected increased traffic that we would prefer to see the automatic warning devices included at this private crossing, flashers and gates."

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