Mayor’s time by the tracks concludes

Sean Guard and BNSF representatives appreciated the increase in communication

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Washougal Mayor Sean Guard

Washougal Mayor Sean Guard was back in City Hall Monday, after spending a week observing trains at 32nd and Main streets.

Guard camped in a travel trailer, from noon, April 17, to noon, April 24, in an effort to monitor the impacts of rail traffic in Washougal.

His data indicates 174 trains traveled through Washougal during that time.

Of those, 12 were coal trains and nine were oil trains.

“It seemed very quiet in the daytime, but they made up for some of that in the evening,” Guard said.

His data would result in an average of 24.85 trains per day.

Gus Melonas, BNSF regional director of public affairs, had said previously the average number of trains that travel through the Washougal area is 35, in a 24-hour period.

“The numbers fluctuate,” he said Monday. “It depends on customer demand daily. There’s not a set schedule.”

Melonas said tree removal near the Washougal River railroad bridge in Camas did not impact the number of trains traveling through Washougal last week.

The replacement of the 550 foot long bridge, which parallels Southeast Sixth Avenue, is expected to occur next year, at a cost of more than $10 million. Access roads are being built, to prepare for the replacement.

Guard said the travel time of the trains, at the intersection of 32nd Street and Evergreen Highway, ranged from 1 minute, 30 seconds to 5 minutes, 56 seconds.

He plans to put the results of his observations online at

During his stay by the tracks, Guard said he talked to more than 300 people.

“99.9 percent of that was very positive conversations,” he said.

Guard said overall, the week was a success.

“If nothing else, we have tangible data that we know is accurate and we had conversations with a whole lot of people on a whole of lot of issues,” he said.

Those talks included railside meetings with BNSF representatives April 17 and 20.

“They were all very good conversations,” Guard said. “We were able to get a better understanding of what is normal for BNSF to do with overpasses.”

A 27th Street extension and railroad overpass are among the priorities of the Washougal City Council. The city is hoping to receive $7.5 million from the state, for the $16 million project.

Melonas is hoping the recent visits to Washougal by BNSF employees in the engineering, operations and public safety departments will lead to closer communications.

BNSF police and a hazardous materials team also visited.

“Freight mobility is an important issue,” Melonas said. “That’s the takeaway. We are hearing from people in the community who appreciated our efforts to bring staff out to meet firsthand with Mayor Guard.

“We want to continue to keep the lines of communication open in this important community that we operate through,” Melonas added.