City to Award Contract for Quiet Zone Improvements, Downtown Arch

The Canby City Council, in its role as the Urban Renewal Agency, will on Wednesday consider awarding a contract for the construction of railroad quiet zone improvements at three downtown Canby intersections, as well as the construction of a gateway arch over North Grant Street.

The complicated project — involving coordination not only with the City of Canby but also the Oregon Department of Transportation (which has jurisdiction over Highway 99E) and Union Pacific Railroad, among others — was previously advertised in March 2020 but attracted only a single bid that came in almost 50% higher than estimates.

City leaders decided to rebid the project this winter in the hopes that it would be more competitive, and that appears to have been a shrewd move.

The new letting yielded eight competitive bids for the project, ranging from just shy of $800,000 to slightly more than $1 million.

The low bid from Battle Ground, Wash.-based Lee Contractors came in at $791,521 — approximately $130,000 below estimates. City staff deemed the bid “responsive” and recommended that the award goes to them — though the decision ultimately lies with the Urban Renewal Agency.

The arch was initially pitched as one part of the city’s plan for economic revitalization, an enticing tool to draw folks off of Highway 99E and into the heart of historic downtown Canby, and that will certainly be needed in the months ahead.

The monument will come equipped with color-changing LED lighting to spotlight the pillars, arch and “Canby” sign while shining twin beacons into the sky. It was designed by Scott|Edwards Architecture and inspired by the existing downtown Canby architecture as well as the iconic Encinitas Archway in California.

The long-debated and oft-maligned quiet zone project has also been positioned as an economic development tool, to enhance the livability of downtown Canby for residents, business owners, diners and other visitors.

It would make it so train engineers are no longer required to sound their horns as they pass the three intersections in downtown Canby — though they would still whistle if a car or pedestrian were in the crossing, or to alert people of other emergency situations.

The quiet zone designation, which had to be approved by Union Pacific Railroad and other authorities, including ODOT, comes part and parcel with a number of safety improvements at the three intersections, such as concrete medians designed to prevent cars from driving around the arms of the railroad gates.

The project’s costs have been a bit of a moving target. The quiet zone was most recently budgeted at $1.4 million (including design, fees and construction), but those estimated have continued to rise due to additional safety requirements and changing Federal Railroad Administration regulations.

In addition to the design and construction cost, Union Pacific last year surprised — and frustrated — Canby leaders by implementing an annual maintenance fee for the three intersections totaling over $48,000, which the city will have to pay in perpetuity.

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