The Toledo City Council this week decided to move ahead with getting bids to repave the badly worn East Slope Road from Fir (just east of Butler Bridge Road) to nearly SE 10th – 1,800 feet of it.
However, the council is hoping the city can pave right up to the very bumpy Willamette and Pacific Railroad tracks at Butler Bridge and East Slope and have the railroad rebuild and smooth out the multiple crossings there. The crossings have been very rough for years and are getting even worse. Councilors say complaints from the public come in all the time at city hall and even to them personally when they’re out and about in town.
Mayor Ralph Grutzmacher asked whether Willamette Pacific has been contacted about the situation. City Manager Michelle Amberg and Interim Public Works Director David Inman both said, “Yes, we’ve tried.” “You mean you haven’t connected with them?” Grutzmacher asked. “No,” said Amberg. “We’ve left many messages but our calls are never returned.”
A frustrated Grutzmacher said that it sounds to him like an untenable situation and asked staff to explore other avenues, like calling the Willamette Pacific’s parent company, Union Pacific, and addressing their concerns there. There was even mentioned contacting the state’s Congressional delegation to see if some political leverage might be called upon.
However, Amberg reminded the council that railroad rights of way have been in existence far longer than Toledo city streets and that the way the railroad has viewed the situation in the past has been that the city street encroaches on the RAILROAD’S RIGHT OF WAY rather than the other way around. In short, the railroad call the shots. Amberg said she would see if there’s any other way to get through to the railroad’s top decision-makers, or Union Pacific which actually owns the tracks. Willamette Pacific just leases them.
So, as it sits, the bids for the repave of East Slope from Fir to near SE 10th are being issued. The council is hoping that by the time the bids are in, the contractor picked and a start date for the pavement re-do is known, that somehow the rebuilding of the East Slope/Butler Bridge Railroad crossings might also become part of the overall project.
Hope springs eternal.