Railroad repairs may force Loomis road closures

Union Pacific work raises concerns
By: Laura O'Brien, Loomis News Correspondent
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Union Pacific track upgrades chugging toward Loomis promise to slow the pace this holiday season. The track renewal project, slated to hit Loomis Dec. 18, could close up to three of the town’s railroad crossings at the same time. The project, scheduled to begin Dec. 3, in Auburn, and stretch to Rocklin, is part of a $3.3 billion Union Pacific infrastructure investment. Loomis Town Council members learned about the project at the Nov. 8 council meeting. According to the tentative project schedule that Town Engineer Brian Fragiao received earlier that day, crossings could be closed for three to seven days. There were no exact starting dates for closures of the Penryn or Loomis crossings. Loomis Town Manager Rick Angelocci echoed the concerns of councilmembers in an interview. “There’s a potential to have all three of our crossings closed at once, which would be absolutely unacceptable to us in terms of public safety, health, obviously law enforcement and fire protection, getting kids to and from school,” Angelocci said. Councilmembers also noted that closures would block business traffic exiting from I-80 and traveling to the Swetzer Road area. Fragiao received initial information about the track renewal project from consultant Jamie O’Shea of RoadSafe, a national traffic safety firm with an office in Reno. Councilmembers viewed a video description of the project during the council meeting. The track renewal project will remove and replace the rail, old wooden ties, and rock ballast comprising the roadbed of the train track. There will be two quarter-mile-long trains sandwiching other train cars. One quarter-mile train will carry new concrete road ties and another will pick up the old rail. The new rail will be laid down in quarter-mile pieces and then welded together. Based on the project description, multiple crossings in Loomis could be closed at once, depending on where the trains stop. The distance between the King Road and Webb Road crossings is less than a quarter mile. The track between Webb Road and Sierra College Boulevard extends nearly one mile. Aaron Hunt is a Union Pacific spokesperson based in Roseville. “The timing is still being developed on the entire program,” Hunt said. “We are shooting right now to have dates firmed up for this right around Thanksgiving.” He said the track renewal crew currently was working on a project in another state. The crew here will number about 100. Through an automated process using gantry cranes positioned on top of rail cars, the crew can replace up to 5,000 ties in a day, which would be the equivalent of several miles of work, he added. “As you come down from Auburn, however, you’re working on a grade, and so that’s a factor that will be significant for the project,” Hunt said. He said the speed of the project could be affected by factors such as the condition of the wooden railroad ties and the amount of rock ballast that needs to be replaced underneath the track. The project also typically involves replacing existing railroad crossings with new concrete approaches. Although Loomis already upgraded its crossings, Hunt said he did not know if those crossings would again need to be replaced in order to lay down the new rail. Angelocci said he and Fragiao would address the town’s concerns via a teleconference with Omaha, Nebraska-based Union Pacific officials this week. “We will be working with them very, very closely to make sure that as they come through the Town of Loomis we will always have open a pass across one of the three roads that are intersected by the rail lines,” Angelocci said.