Project targets safer passage between Pacific and Auburn’s south end

Anyone who has ever tried to cross from the city of Pacific into south Auburn on foot or on bicycle has had to deal with the twin barriers presented by the BNSF Railroad tracks and congested A Street Southeast.

For students walking to and from Pacific to Ilalko Elementary and to Auburn Riverside High School and the other way around, or for walkers and bicyclists moving between the White River Trail, the C Street Trail, the Interurban Trail and the various parks, getting there without risking life and limb by illegally crossing the railroad bridge, or dashing hell for leather across A Street SE, can take them a mile out of their way.

On Aug. 28, City Engineer Jacob Sweeting presented Auburn City Council members the plan for a three-part project that proposes to solve this long-standing problem and other issues that bedevil access on the south end.

Part one of the project, outlined above, is the result of a 2015 federal grant-funded study that examined the problems presented by the railroad tracks and A Street SE, and concluded by prodding the city to do something. This plan calls for access improvements to the tracks and to A Street SE. It also proposes a new signalized crossing at A Street SE, an under-crossing tunnel at the BNSF tracks, access management along A Street SE and a Skinner Road crossing and trail extension.

The estimated cost: $15 million to $20 million.

Potential funding includes a Reconnecting Communities and Neighborhoods grant, which applies to projects that remove or mitigate barriers created by infrastructure. This grant does not require a match for economically-distressed communities. According to Sweeting, BNSF and the city of Pacific support this part of the plan.

Part two calls for grinding and overlaying a section of A Street SE from 37th Street South to Lakeland Hills Way to stave off further degradation of the pavement — last patched in 2019 — before it reaches a condition that demands a much more costly full replacement.

The total estimated cost of the repaving: $2 million, for which Auburn has already received a $905,000 grant award.

In addition, this part of the plan calls for preservation of 550 feet of A Street SE in Pacific and suggests paying for the work with $65,000 that Auburn has already received via a federal grant, and the remaining $65,000 to be tentatively funded by the city of Pacific.

This project is in design and slated for construction in 2025.

The third component, which would support many of the improvements above, calls for potential annexation of five parcels in the city of Pacific and some BNSF property. The Pacific parcel would be sold to Auburn at annexation, and funds from the sale would be applied to Pacific’s contribution to the A Street SE paving. According to Sweeting, the city of Pacific supports the annexation.

Without annexation, Sweeting said, the city of Pacific would not have the funds to contribute to the A Street SE paving and that part of the paving would be removed from the project. Also, without annexation, Auburn could not apply for the Reconnecting Neighborhoods Grant to apply to the under crossing access project.

Next steps for this part of the project:

Draft an interlocal agreement between the cities of Auburn and Pacific;

Determine requirements of the Boundary Review Board;

Pacific passing a resolution for de-annexation; and

A public hearing on the annexation resolution, then adoption.