Quiet Zone, Arch Could Start Construction in Early 2021

The Canby Urban Renewal Agency’s downtown quiet zone and Grant Street arch project are slated to go out for bid in late November, with construction starting as soon as early 2021, Interim City Administrator Joe Lindsay told city councilors last week.

The project would rework the city’s three downtown railroad intersections at Ivy, Grant and Elm streets and would also add various safety upgrades and other improvements to enable a quiet zone — meaning trains would no longer be required to blow their horn at every street crossing.

The downtown arch, which was initially conceived as a separate project, was later combined with the quiet zone upgrades in the hopes that it would be cheaper and more efficient.

However, it also made the joint project more complicated, and that may have limited the number of contractors who were interested in bidding on it. The city’s previous letting for the project attracted only a single bidder, and their proposal was much higher than officials had estimated.

City leaders are hopeful that a bid opening this winter would be more competitive. They are also open to separating the projects again, if that makes it easier to get them done.

“Both projects are important, and there’s been some concern that one gets lost in the way of the other,” said Councilor Sarah Spoon. “If they need to be separated, I understand that, but the goal is to get both projects done.”

Councilor Greg Parker was of the mind that the matter be left to newly hired City Administrator Scott Archer, who was on the Zoom call last Wednesday, but did not speak. He does not officially start with the city until Nov. 9.

“Both of these contracts, whenever they’re let, are going to be during his tenure, and he’ll be administering them,” Parker said. “If we’re going to ask him to make the dinner, we should let him buy the groceries.”

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. They would still sound the horn 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, but those estimated have continued to rise. The arch was initially budgeted at $250,000, until the first (and only) bid for construction came in about 80% higher than the city had anticipated.

Both projects are being paid for with urban renewal funds.

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