railroad crossing

The railroad crossing at Riverside Drive is seen Thursday.

MOUNT VERNON — Mount Vernon Public Works is gearing up for three road safety projects this summer.

At its meeting Wednesday, the City Council authorized a bid on a railroad crossing improvement project on Riverside Drive, pending approval from the state Department of Transportation.

City Public Works Director Esco Bell said the joint project by the city and BNSF Railway is designed to make the crossing safer for pedestrians and cyclists.

Bell said the railroad crosses the street at an angle, making it more likely for a cyclist’s wheel to be caught in a gap between the rail and pavement.

By smoothing the pavement around the rail, cyclists — and vehicles — will notice less of a jolt when crossing.

Mike Love, assistant public works director, said the city also plans to improve the sidewalk there and install a horn that warns of coming trains.

The project is funded entirely by a federal railroad safety grant, he said. The city’s portion of the project will cost about $473,000, and will be done by JAG Corporation of Tulalip.

BNSF Railway has committed to install upgraded gates at the crossing, he said.

He said construction should start in about a month and will hopefully be done by the end of the year.

Bell said the city also received bids on two more projects: installing a traffic signal at East College Way and North 30th Street and upgrading signals at 12 other intersections on College Way and Riverside Drive.

Both projects have received bids, and construction should start later this year, he said.

The new traffic signal project includes new sidewalks and crosswalk signals and should cost about $803,000, Bell said.

This signal, as well as the upgrades elsewhere in the city, will have blinking yellow left-turn arrows, which he said are shown to be safer than traditional signals.

The low bid for the signal upgrade process came in at around $1.4 million, about $400,000 higher than the city’s initial estimate. However, he said the project is still a smart investment.

“City money is leveraging a lot of grant money (on this project),” Bell said. “It’s a good deal no matter how you look at it.”

Bell said his department has recommended the council accept the bids and move forward with the projects.

“That recommendation will be tested out at the next council meeting,” he said.

— Reporter Brandon Stone: bstone@skagitpublishing.com, 360-416-2112, Twitter: @Brandon_SVH

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