Issues

The following issues must be carefully considered and mitigated before any serious development can begin.


Increased Rail Traffic

The trains are coming!  The Port of St. Helens has approved increase rail traffic.  Genesee & Wyoming are investing heavily in improved railways. Clatskanie/Port Westward is developing more commercial areas.  Teevin Brothers and US Gypsum continue to grow.  All these and others are demanding more rail traffic. We must acknowledge these changes and develop plans to accommodate them into our own long range vision - for the very sake of Rainier.

Mitigation: Rebuilt, day-lighted railway with proper safety devices to increase train speed - and decreased impeded traffic time.

Disaster Prevention and Recovery

The accidents involving the transportation of oil by train is getting a lot of attention these days and the citizens of Rainier are concerned. What are we doing to prevent accidents? In the unfortunate case of a train derailment or other catastrophe, are we adequately prepared to respond? And, ultimately, who is responsible for the clean up and restoration after a serious rail accident?

Mitigation: Make sure we are doing everything possible to prevent a rail accident. Review Emergency response plans and assure we are adequately prepared.

Discuss here

Insufficient Infrastructure

To accommodate the desired growth and revitalization of the "A" Street area, we must address the antiquated sewer and water systems that currently exist.  Additionally, the capacity of all utilities must be increased to adapt to the increased use.

Mitigation: Renew water and sewer beneath A street.

Auto and Pedestrian Safety

Safety along A Street is already a concerned with unimpeded foot traffic able to cross the railway at any point, parking alongside the railway and automobile traffic sharing the same road surface was the trains. We must provide adequate safety measures to protect all users of this corridor. 

Mitigation: Install traffic barricades and signals. planters, trees and parapets to discourage random pedestrian rail crossings and encourage use of designated crossings.

Emergency Access

While not all trains will be mile-long "unit" trains, the increased rail traffic will hinder emergency access to the north side of the tracks. Currently, a unit train takes about eight minutes to pass any given point in Rainier at the current speed limit of 10 mph. The distance from Veterans Way to East 5th Street is about six tenths of a mile and a Unit train is can be a mile or more so the amount of time that the two most extreme crossings in rainier are blocked at the same time is about four tenths of a mile or a little over three minutes (.4x8 minutes).  At the expected increased train speed, this time is cut in half. In an emergency situations these few minutes could be a matter of life or death.

Mitigation: Establish a "satellite" emergency services station on the north side of the tracks.  When there are no trains, the satellite facility could service all of Rainier and it's surroundings along with the primary Fire Department.  When a train is going through Rainier, temporarily cutting off emergency access, this satellite station could provide immediate help to most critical situations on the north side of the tracks.

Parking

With the increased use of the A street district, parking will quickly become an issue.  All of the proposed options include diminished parking (to various degrees) along certain sections of A street. This will have to be compensated for elsewhere.  In addition, we will have to create new parking areas to handle the additional traffic.

Mitigation: Establish public parking lots near central business district. Can gain some parking on side streets.  Widen A street by park and gain parking on both sides of the street.

Funding

All these wonderful plans and important issues take money to accomplish.  Fortunately, we have many good options we can leverage and even more we should pursue. 

  • The City has applied for a ConnectOregon grant.
  • The Governor's office has allocated funds.
  • Genesee & Wyoming are assuming all railway improvement expenses and may contribute some for street improvements.
  • Columbia County has expressed support.
  • PUD may help with placing utilities underground.
  • Port of St. Helens may help.
  • Oregon State Marine Board may help with marina expenses.
  • Corp of Engineers may help with riverbank abatement.

And there are many more organizations, both governmental and private with funds to help communities like ours.

Mitigation: Identify all sources of outside funding and make appropriate applications. Provide economic incentives to encourage development of retail, recreation and office space. Increased use should also bring additional tax base providing further funding.

Auto and Pedestrian Traffic Impediments

Although we wish to provide as much protection as we can to all users of the area, we must also minimize access impediments to the area.  If access is difficult or inconvenient, it will hinder the development of the area.

Mitigation:  Coordinate future plans and needs with project planners for projects currently on the table.

Noise and Smell

Trains, as required by federal law, must sound their horns four times at every crossing. Currently, we have seven crossings in Rainier so each train going in each direction must sound its horn 28 times.  The minimum allowed decibels for these train signals is 96 db at 100 ft.  That is loud! There is not much we can do about engine noise and undercarriage noise but the city can apply for a quiet zone if proper automated signalling is installed.


Smell (exhaust) from the train diesel engines are regulated by the Federal Railway Administration and DEQ and is not expected to be a problem.  Same with fumes from the cargo.  However, since the Park must also be considered in the development of the city, we must address the issue of the sewage treatment plant.  This state of the art plant continues to send very unpleasant fumes across the west end of the Park. 

Mitigation: Apply for railway traffic quiet zone. Bring operation of sewage treatment plant up to proper standards to eliminate smell.  Install trees (poplars?) between treatment plant and park.

Bank Stabilization

The riverbank may need to be reinforced to support the proposed developments.