Bellingham approves money for rail crossing on South Bay Trail

THE BELLINGHAM HERALDSeptember 17, 2013 

BELLINGHAM - On a 6-0 vote, City Council has approved a funding plan for an estimated $377,000 in safety signals to be installed at the South Bay Trail railroad crossing into Boulevard Park.

Council member Terry Bornemann was absent from the Monday, Sept. 16, meeting.

The $377,000 figure is the cost estimate from BNSF Railway Co., which would install the proposed system of warning bells, flashing lights and crossing arm that an oncoming train would activate. But the city is expected to pay the full cost. City officials are in the process of negotiating the detailed terms of that deal with the railroad.

Parks Director James King and Public Works Director Ted Carlson asked the council to approve the use of a rounded-off total of $400,000 from a variety of sources: $200,000 from the voter-approved transportation benefit district sales tax levy, $150,000 from Greenways levies, and $50,000 from park impact fees.

Carlson told the council that the installation of the signal at the trail crossing is one small step toward eventual creation of a railroad quiet zone through the city that would make all rail crossings safe enough to allow locomotive operators to rely less on the loud horns that disrupt sleep for many city residents.

But in an earlier interview, Carlson said installation of citywide signal improvements is likely millions of dollars and several years away. Even with full signalization in place, engineers are still allowed to sound horns at their discretion, Carlson added.

Reach John Stark at 360-715-2274 or john.stark@bellinghamherald.com. Read his Politics Blog at bellinghamherald.com/politics-blog or follow him on Twitter at @bhamheraldpolitics.

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