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Auburn's long-awaited A-B Street corridor opens in part

Only a section of the A-B Street corridor is open to motorists. Holding up the opening of the long-sought connection between the city
Only a section of the A-B Street corridor is open to motorists. Holding up the opening of the long-sought connection between the city's downtown and its north end had been Burlington Northern Santa Fe Railroad's last-minute demand for a fully-signalized railroad crossing.
— image credit: Robert Whale/Auburn Reporter

The long-awaited A-B Street corridor opened Sept. 29.

But not all of it, just the new section of A Street Northwest between 14th Street Northwest and the SHAG senior apartments on 10th Street.

Holding up the opening of the long-sought connection between the city's downtown and its north end had been Burlington Northern Santa Fe Railroad's last-minute demand for a fully-signalized railroad crossing over the spur between the parts of Mohawk Northern Plastic's (AMPAC's) operation, and, in part, who would pay for it.

“We reached a settlement today, which must be ratified by the Utilities and Transportation Commission,” Mayor Pete Lewis wrote Sept. 28 about talks between the City and AMPAC on one side and BNSF on the other.

The City must wait to open the section that links the recently-opened section to the already-completed-and-open corridor that extends A Street Northwest west of the Auburn Post Office on 3rd Street Northwest to a point just north of AMPAC.

The tentative solution is awaiting confirmation by all parties before it can be sent off to the UTC. The date when the entire corridor opens to traffic is not yet known, but it is likely to open first with the flaggers AMPAC has always employed until the fully-signalized intersection is in place.

When that last link opens, a driver starting at South 277th will be able to scoot all the way to West Main Street.

As BNSF Spokesman Gus Melonas told the Auburn Reporter before the talks began, "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, with flashers and gates."

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 AMPAC, which built its section of the A-B Street corridor first, had been the hook for the $350,000 tab to install that fully-signalized crossing.

Had the settlement talks failed, the next stop would have been a hearing before the UTC.

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