Rail crossing improvement meetings set for May 22-24

A redundancy of signage and other supplemental improvements have been implemented by the City of Tacoma to improve safety for pedestrians at the McCarver Street crossing in Old Town. Photo by Andrew Fickes

The City of Tacoma has announced a second round of community meetings to address rail crossing improvement projects. The meetings follow a first round that was held in January.

The meetings are set for May 22 at Titlow Lodge, 8425 6th Ave., to address improvements to the West End rail crossings; May 23 at Old Town Music Society, 2101 N. 30th St., to address the McCarver crossing; and May 24 at 323 Puyallup Ave. to address the Dome District crossing. All meetings are held from 4-6 p.m.

“We’re looking at all the crossings, which is about six of them,” said Mark D’Andrea, the project manager. “All the required safety measures are in place like crossing gates, flashing lights, and bells.”

D’Andrea said in January public opinion was collected at the meetings. Staff assembled alternatives addressing enhancements based on the feedback received. At the meetings later this month, collected public feedback will be presented and also a list of potential engineering options that are being evaluated.

D’Andrea said some of the feedback collected suggested construction and placement of pedestrian bridges at some crossings, and also the establishment of quiet zones at certain parts of the track.

At the McCarver Street crossing in Old Town, city staff is hopeful that by the end of September or sooner Burlington Northern Santa Fe will finally install gates that drop across the sidewalk to deter foot traffic when trains are passing through.

“We’ve been working with BN for 15 months to get this in,” D’Andrea said. “A grade crossing agreement is in place (between the City and BN). Once that is in place, (BN) has 180 days to make improvements. That 180 days ends at the middle to end of September.”

D’Andrea said the City will be making some sidewalk modifications to realign it with the new drop-down gate. He said the City installed new fencing along the west side of McCarver to encourage pedestrians to use the preferred crossing on the east side. He said the City would also like to install fencing on the east side parallel with the track, but that process is difficult because BN owns that property.

Other supplemental improvements to the McCarver crossing include new pavement striping and adding signs to let people know that there are two tracks. One sign also reminds pedestrians to look both ways. This redundancy is needed following two pedestrian deaths in November of 2015 and November of 2016.

A final report addressing preferred improvement options will be published this summer. Following publication, D’Andrea and his staff will present before city management and city council. Preferred projects will require approval by council. Money set aside for projects include $500,000 of general fund dollars for McCarver and 5 other crossings; a $1.1 million grant for the Titlow Beach crossing; and $400,000 in state funds to address noise mitigation at South 19th Street and Narrows Marina.

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