Railroad Quiet Zone Officially Takes Effect in Downtown Canby

Shhhh! The Downtown Canby Quiet Zone officially took effect at 7 a.m. Monday, meaning trains crossing the Union Pacific railroad tracks at three downtown intersections — Elm, Grant and Ivy — will no longer blow their horns except in emergency situations or to comply with other federal regulations.

Funded by urban renewal dollars, the project also involved the installation of new safety mechanisms and other upgrades to the three downtown railroad crossings, including new signage and flashing lighting and horns to alert pedestrians of an approaching train.

The project also replaced the railroad crossing arms, added a 12-inch concrete curb to separate travel lanes and prevent traffic from crossing over to avoid the railroad gates, upgraded all sidewalk crossings will be to meet ODOT and Union Pacific clearance requirements, and repaved and restriped the roadway connections between Highway 99E and 1st Avenue.

The project has been in the works for several decades and took three years to plan and realize. It also included the construction of the new Grant Street Arch, which was unrelated to the quiet zone safety improvements, but combining the two saved on project costs and meant Grant Street had to be closed for construction only once last year instead of twice.

The two projects, which amounted to one of the most significant the city has undertaken in years, were aimed at economic development, with city leaders hoping the Scott|Edwards Architecture-designed arch would help entice motorists passing by on Highway 99E to visit and patronize downtown merchants and restaurants, while the quiet zone is meant to improve livability and economic viability downtown.

But though it has been supported by city leaders and downtown business owners, it has been controversial with many residents, who lament the loss of the downtown train horns as a blow to Canby’s cultural history and charm, and fear the quiet zone will make the tracks less safe for motorists and pedestrians alike.

The launch comes just three and a half months after a pedestrian, 23-year-old Oacean MacArthur, was killed while crossing the tracks on the way to Cutsforth’s Market — a death some blamed on the quiet zone even though it had not actually taken effect yet.

However, supporters of the project point to the new mechanisms and upgrades that were added to increase the overall safety of the three crossings, essentially making the routine blowing of train horns redundant.

“We as a community get more safety at these crossings, and we get a little more quiet for our downtown businesses and events,” said Ryan Oliver, whose office, Oliver Insurance, is located on the corner of Ivy and Northwest 1st Avenue. “That’s a win-win. And the trains can and will still blow the horn if they see danger.”

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