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Railroad irrational to block underpass

Federal and state agencies, Multnomah County, Oregon House Speaker Karen Minnis and the Metro regional government all were involved in securing funding and making plans for a long-overdue railroad underpass on Northeast 223rd Avenue in Fairview.

All that political might, however, isn't enough to overcome the power of the Union Pacific Railroad.

The railroad is blocking the project by making what many people consider to be unreasonable demands. Union Pacific has informed Multnomah County that it is willing to stop trains for only 28 hours - not the previously agreed 36 - while crews replace the steel structure beneath the tracks. It also says it will hold the county financially responsible for every train nationwide affected by the closure.

The county cannot accept that potential liability. However, this project absolutely must move forward. The underpass, built in 1915, is dangerous for buses, pedestrians, bicyclists and everyday motorists.

U.S. Sen. Gordon Smith and others are trying to reach an agreement with Union Pacific - and indeed pressure from high places is exactly what's needed. Union Pacific's current stance is shortsighted. The railroad, as well as this community, will benefit greatly from replacement of this decaying, 90-year-old structure with a modern underpass and new track.