Safety concerns prompt closure of C Street railroad crossing in Bellingham

THE BELLINGHAM HERALDApril 20, 2013 

BELLINGHAM - The city on Friday, April 19, closed C Street at Roeder Avenue indefinitely after a driver said she was almost hit by an Amtrak train last month at the railroad crossing, the city's assistant director of engineering said.

The woman wrote a letter to the city describing her experience that morning at the crossing, Assistant Director Rory Routhe said. Heading west on C Street, she looked left, right and left again and suddenly saw the train bearing down with its horn blaring.

"There are some sight restrictions by this (crossing) we need to do something about," Routhe said.

The crossing has no lights or crossing arms, only a stop sign and a crossbar sign. The crossing will remain closed until BNSF Railway Co. makes safety improvements there, Routhe said.

The city has a history of accidents at unsignaled crossings. In September 2001, a 62-year-old woman died after being struck in her vehicle at the Wharf Street crossing. In September 2011, a driver at the C Street crossing wasn't seriously hurt after the front end of his car was clipped by a train.

The closure will inconvenience customers at West Coast Marine, said Pete Foti, the business' owner. People with boats and trailers can no longer use Roeder to reach the business at 1200 C St.

Foti recalled just the one minor accident during his 27 years at that location.

"There's plenty of visibility if people are paying attention and looking," he said.

The city must pay for additional safety features at the intersection, and the city council will decide whether to do the work immediately or wait and come up with a funding plan, Routhe said.

"It's going to cost a lot of money," he said.

Reach Ralph Schwartz at 360-715-2289 or ralph.schwartz@bellinghamherald.com. Read his politics blog at blogs.bellinghamherald.com/politics or follow him on Twitter at @bhamheraldpolitics.

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