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Idling UP engines in Oakridge may be finding another home

For many a decade now, Union Pacific’s engines have idled in Oakridge awaiting their turn to push loaded rail cars over the pass.

By GEORGE CUSTER/Editor  —  There may be one more reason for people to visit Oakridge: Cleaner air. The constant 24/7 chug, chug, chug of the Union Pacific’s engines loitering on the tracks in Oakridge is coming to an end, mostly.

The Herald has learned that in October of last year, the Parks & Community Services Committee voted to recommend that City Council direct the City’s Attorney to write a letter to Union Pacific Railroad. Per City Administer James Cleavenger, “The letter was to request information on UP’s procedures & protocols regarding idling trains, after multiple citizens had complained about the practice over the years and had not been able to obtain a response from UP.”

A response to the City’s letter would soon be forthcoming

In November, UP Senior Director of Public Affairs Aaron Hunt responded to the city’s letter. Mr. Cleavenger said ” Later that month Mr. Hunt drove from Portland to meet with me, Community Development Director Rick Zylstra, and Councilor Dirk “Poncho” Tarman, who is also the City Council representative on the Parks Committee.”

Cleavenger continued “At that meeting, Mr. Hunt assured the city that he would look into the issue and see what he could do to address our concerns.” That communication has produced some progress in the discussion around the continual idling of the diesel engines in Oakridge.

By early December, the city had received word that UP had ceased the practice and began staging the idling trains outside of town.

UP responsive to Oakridge concerns

An excerpt from an email to Cleavenger from Mr. Hunt, states: “… After our meeting I began a dialogue with a variety of Union Pacific teams. As those conversations ensued, a decision was made to use the locomotives we have typically staged in Oakridge differently. As such, the Oakridge community has likely noticed the locomotives that have historically staged in Union Pacific’s Oakridge Rail Yard have not been in town recently. This does not mean we will never have locomotives or other equipment idling in the yard, particularly in the winter months when we are responding to snow events and colder temperatures. I will send along additional information about how to report idling.”

Councilor Tarman’s tenacity finally bears fruit

Many residents have groused about the noise and diesel fumes that have left a bad taste (and odor) in Oakridge. However, it would appear that the conversations from Mr. Hunt shows a genuine concern for the citizen of Oakridge.

Cleavenger also remarked that “The city is very pleased with the response from UP on this issue and we look forward to continuing to maintain a positive working partnership with UP Railroad.” Lastly, Cleavenger stated that “Councilor Dirk “Poncho” Tarman deserves the most credit for seeing this through. He has been working on this issue for years, even before he became a city councilor.”

 

 

 

 

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