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Feedback From Our First Community Meeting

posted May 29, 2014, 5:30 PM by Skip Lahti   [ updated May 29, 2014, 5:41 PM ]

What we heard and our responses

The turn-out at our first public meeting last week was great!  We estimated over 60 people attended from local business owners and local citizens to local and state government representatives.  The format was intentionally unstructured, informal and casual to allow for free flow of ideas and concerns from everyone.  And it worked! There was lots of excitement and there were many energetic conversations going on all the time.  It was wonderful to see so many people that truly cared about the future of Rainier!

But there was also a lot of skepticism.  Many people had "heard it all before" and wanted to know what would be different this time.  These same people, however, were encouraged by what they saw and heard. 

Here is a list of topics, ideas, and concerns that we collected at the meeting - either in writing or through conversations.


We understand this is a big challenge for our town - especially if we attract more people to our downtown area.  We are going to lose the diagonal parking along both sides of "A" Street and will end up with parallel parking when the tracks are rebuilt.  As Rainier gets developed, this problem will get even worse.  We believe it will take many different solutions to fix. Some possible ones are:

·         Add diagonal parking on East 2nd Street.

·         A parking structure that can charge fees until paid for.

·         A parking lot or even a structure could go next to the old B of A building.

·         A parking lot on second street across from SHCU.

·         A parking lot next to the post office (maybe even relocating the post office).

·         A parking structure could be built a few blocks away with a small trolley that could run all along the river shuttling people back and forth.

Rail improvements having a negative impact on Rainier


There isn't much information on what is being planned for the rail improvements along A Street yet.  And, as a consequence, there are many rumors spreading about what might be planned. A common rumor is that the railway will be raised somewhere between 12-30 inches off of A Street (so we would have a "hump" with railroad ties and rails) in the middle of the street. Skip has addressed this rumor directly with Genessee and Wyoming and they assured him this is not the case and they don't know how that could have been started. This was one of the rumors we hoped to dispel at the meeting but we continued to get the question (so we are dispelling it again here). But the real concern is having a day-lighted railroad track running down A street with unsightly pedestrian barriers of some kind. 


Another concern regarded Foss Maritime and their need to move oversized loads along A Street as they have in the past. We have not checked with Foss regarding this, but we suspect they have certainly thought about it and have a solution acceptable to them.


Many people understood why the trains hauling timber to Teevin Bros. have to stop and, temporarily block parts of Rainier, but there were questions on why the oil trains do this and if this was going to be a regular occurrence in the future.


This was certainly a common topic that people were passionate about. Most found the train horns annoying to intolerable, but still understood that the trains had to obey the federal regulations for safety.  However, many people asked why the trains have to "lay on their horns" for long periods of time - especially in the middle of the night.  Mayor Cole made it abundantly clear that Rainier would be applying for a "Quiet Zone" thus greatly limiting the need for trains to sound their horns.  This cannot be accomplished until after the new rails are in and all the barriers are installed.  For more information on Quiet Zones, please see the Federal Railway Association's Brochure on Quiet Zones on our website.


Many were concerned about their property values and the effect increased train traffic may have on them.  This is legitimate concern and goes right to the core of what the A Street Group is all about. We are doing everything we can to make sure Rainier benefits from the increased rail traffic - in terms of property values, increased permanent and temporary residents,  as well as increased traffic to our local businesses.


Although some of the impacts of the railway will have negative impacts on Rainier, it is our hope (and mission) to make sure Rainier is left with a net positive impact when the rail project is complete.  Many of the attendees expressed a common sentiment - that those that stand to benefit the most from the increased rail traffic through Rainier ought to help assure Rainier's economic development.

Lack of information about projects planned for Rainier

This is related to the concern above.  Many people expressed dismay at the lack of information about what is being planned.  Some even thought The A Street Group was a sub-committee of City Council. The A Street Group has tried it's best to gather this information but there is very little "official" information available to the public.  There are no time tables, conceptual drawings (official ones, anyway), project descriptions or other information available from an official source.  Several months ago, Senator Johnson demanded at a public meeting here in Rainier, that an official website be created to disseminate accurate and official information to the public.  To our knowledge this has not been done yet but we are in full support of the idea (information found on our website,, is not official and may not be accurate).  More transparency is needed.

Emergency Services and safety


There were many questions regarding the speed of the trains as they come through Rainier. Yes, the improved railway will allow for a higher speed as well the traffic and pedestrian barriers.  This will shorten the amount of time that the businesses on the North side of tracks are completely blocked, but is also likely to increase the level of risk.  It is our understanding that train speed through Rainier is still being considered by the railway and the FRA.  Please see our simple graphic on our website to help understand the impact of different speeds has on access to the North side of the tracks.


A heli-pad for emergency services might be a good idea.   Maybe on top of a new parking structure?


This is extremely important! This is a good solution that doesn't need to cost very much.  We could establish a "satellite"  EMT station that could help serve all of Rainier when there is no train coming through town.  But when a train is coming through town and, potentially, blocking access to the North side of A Street, EMT services would already be located on that side of the tracks. In fact, we should be considering this now since the trains are already coming through town. There is no reason to wait



All of these beautification projects are nice, but why not start with the current unsightly store fronts along A street and the side streets?  Excellent point!  If some of the local business owners would fix up the exterior of their buildings it would go a long way towards making downtown Rainier more attractive.  REDCO has provided limited funds for this sort of thing in the past, but maybe we need to rethink this program to make it more effective (that is, encourage building owners to keep their buildings looking nice).


Our town does desperately need community areas with fun activities for all. An indoor pool area for all would be fantastic! Perhaps we can seek out a developer for the brown building on Hwy. 30 to convert into a community center and a pool!


Yes, fountains are nice. Some of you suggested drinking fountains on every corner, children's playing water fountains, and decorative fountains.


Many attendees wanted to see art shows and displays, small and large music concerts and events located around the downtown area as well as at the park; even permanent artistic installations such as statues and structures that children could play on. Maybe an Arts Commissioner that would drive exhibits, programs and events related to the arts.


A walking path with benches and tables, trees and plants, piers and gazebos along the waterfront behind the A Street businesses running from the Marina to the Park generated lots of discussion.  Even the idea of opening up the businesses on the north side of A Street to face the walking street and river was well received. Many noted that this has been a discussion for 10-20 years! Some of the participants were upset at any mention of a walking path because they have been “teased” by this notion for "way too long". Others gave us a hopeless "Yeah, whatever. We've heard that before." But everyone seems to like the idea.


Too many deciduous trees may create a problem for our storm drains and cause large pools of water in the street.  Even wet leaves on the side walking could be a hazard. Trees lining the railway may create a visibility problem for train engineers.  They should be kept to a low height or use shrubbery that doesn't grow very high.


Who is paying for all these beautification projects?  At this point, we don't really know.  First we have to decide what we want to do and then prioritize the projects.  The next step is to scope the project and estimate the costs.  At that point, we can look for the appropriate funding. Nevertheless, we have identified potential sources of funding, such as the Ford Foundation, Oregon's bike and pedestrian initiatives, Oregon Marine Board, local sponsors and many others.

Concepts were too "modern" looking

A common comment was the conceptual drawings displayed looked too "modern" and we should develop a more traditional styling to our store fronts - even an "1800's" look. Actually, the drawings were done in block form only to indicate relative size and position of the buildings and "styling" was disregarded.  This gave them a contemporary "cubism" sort of look.  This was not intended!  Perhaps our next conceptual drawings will include styling ideas.

Underground the Utilities

Many of you would like to see this happen.  We have met with the Clatskanie PUD and they have shown interest in contributing to this, but they need an idea of the scope of work which we can't be established until the City Council decides the extent of work needed to renovate the underground waste water system that runs underneath A Street.


Blue highway signs telling drivers of businesses (current and future) is a nice idea we heard and a simple thing to accomplish. In fact, this is another fairly simple thing we could do now.


Many of our attendees expressed a weariness of "lots of talk and little action". We are all in this together and it must start somewhere. Talking about what we want and establishing a vision for Rainier is our first step. The "A" street Group began meeting weekly and have been brain storming together weekly and we are determined to make a difference. Please join us. Help us. Tell us what you want. Together, we can realize our vision of a new and improved Rainier.


We hear you loud and clear! We are serious and we meet weekly to keep the momentum going. We've met with local business owners, management of large employers in the area, political leaders (such as, Senator Betsy Johnson, Mark Ellsworth of the Governor's office, Patrick Trapp from the Port of St. Helens, Representatives from the Federal Railway Administration, County Commissioners, Larry McKinley of the Department of Transportation, Representatives from the Railway and many others). And we do our best to attend City Council meetings and keep abreast of what is happening in City Hall.

We attend important economic development meetings such as Connect Oregon to keep in touch with what is happening in our area (or may affect our area).  We've joined the EPA Oil by Train Task Force to keep tabs on safety and environmental issues.  Chuck Daughtry who heads the Columbia County Economic Development Team is now a active member of our committee.  We are doing our best to stay "in -touch" and informed so we can pass this information on to you.

We hired an urban planner with lots of experience using our own money (not tax payer's money). And we built this website to share what we know and what you want.

We are serious!