Washougal mayor to camp by the railroad tracks

Sean Guard will gather data about the frequency of trains

Washougal Mayor Sean Guard plans to spend a week camping at 32nd and Main streets, to record the number of trains that travel through the city.

He will arrive in a travel trailer, Friday, by noon, to also observe the type of freight the trains carry and how long they block and back up traffic onto state Route 14.

“Much of my concern is with how many long trains of coal and Bakken crude oil are passing through our city, but this is also just as much about the increasing train traffic itself, regardless of their loads,” Guard said. “Washougal is literally split, north and south, by the Burlington Northern Santa Fe rail line.

“When long trains are passing through, they can block all of our at-grade rail crossings at the same time,” he added. “This just underscores our need for a second railroad overpass.”

Guard, who has invited BNSF Chairman Matthew Rose to join him during the week, has received a call from Gus Melonas, BNSF regional director of public affairs, in Seattle, to meet in Washougal.

Guard said he has permission from a land owner next to the tracks to stay on their property.

“It was purely my idea, to get accurate information on what is passing through our city and what the impacts are,” he said.

Guard will welcome visits from local residents, business leaders and other elected officials who want to talk about rail safety and other issues facing the city.

Rep. Liz Pike (R-Camas) told Guard she would like to camp for 24 hours in a tent by the tracks, this weekend, unless there are votes to make in the State House of Representatives. The legislature’s regular session is expected to end Sunday, April 26.

A Washougal City Council resolution, approved in February, expresses concern to Gov. Jay Inslee and the Washington State Energy Facilities Site Evaluation Council about oil export facility projects and an increased risk of catastrophic accidents and train traffic.

It also authorizes the city attorney to intervene in the EFSEC process “for the Southwest Washington proposed project or any other oil terminal project under consideration.”

The resolution says the safety and traffic impacts of oil trains on the City of Washougal must be mitigated by measures such as eliminating at-grade crossings and providing funding for an incident response plan, enhanced safety equipment and safety training.

Vancouver Energy, a joint venture of Tesoro Refining & Marketing Company LLC and Savage Companies, is proposing to accept and ship crude oil that originates in North America and arrives at the Port of Vancouver by rail.