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City opens A-B corridor to traffic

Auburn Mayor Pete Lewis officially opens the long-anticipated A-B corridor Thursday afternoon following approval by the state
Auburn Mayor Pete Lewis officially opens the long-anticipated A-B corridor Thursday afternoon following approval by the state's Utilities and Transportation Commission of safety measures for a small railway spur that crosses the road.
— image credit: Courtesy photo

The City of Auburn opened the new A-B Corridor Thursday aftenoon after it received approval from the Washington Utilities and Transporation Commission (UTC).

The City, Burlington Northern Santa Fe Railroad adjacent property owners and the UTC all recently agreed on safety measures needed to be installed with respect to the small railway spur that crosses the road.

"We completed negotiations with all parties at the end of November and made our case to the UTC this week," said Mayor Pete Lewis. "They approved opening the road with the inclusion of interim safety measures pending the installation of full gates and lights."

The UTC also required the City to remove and clear vegetation near the railroad crossing to improve sight lines. Full signalization will be completed within the next year.

"We still have work to do to comply with our agreement," said Lewis, "but I'm very happy to announce the road is finally open."

What the UTC ratified was an agreement worked out between Mohawk Northern Plastics — which does business as AMPAC — and the City of Auburn on the one hand and Burlington Northern Railroad Santa Fe Railroad on the other.

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

Twice a week, typically between 11 p.m. and 4 a.m., AMPAC transports loads of chemicals over a private railroad spur from one part of its plant to another. The railroad insisted that the private crossing 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.

The corridor extends A Street Northwest west of the Auburn Post Office on 3rd Street Northwest to B Street Northwest.

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."

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