State removes unused tracks

Crews look to smooth roads, work expected to finish by Friday



Workers from the Washington State Department of Transportation use an excavator to remove railroad tracks on Grand Avenue in Pullman on Monday.

IAN SMAY, Evergreen reporter

The Washington State Department of Transportation began removing unused railroads on three Pullman streets Monday and expect to complete the process by the end of the week.

The work includes the removal of the tracks that span across State and Kamiaken streets and Grand Avenue, which could see additional attention in the future if the line needs to be used again, WSDOT Supervisor Tom Riebold said.

“We’re just trying to hold it through until then,” he said.

Pullman Public Works Director Kevin Gardes said the repairs are being made to smooth out the bumps in the road near the tracks.

“They require continuous maintenance,” he said. “We get a lot of feedback from citizens about the bumps and the jarring effect you get when you cross them.”

The removal of the tracks will also allow buses to drive through without stopping like they are currently required, Gardes said.

Grand Avenue has remained open due to the crew’s only working on half of the road at a time, allowing for one-lane traffic each way, Riebold said.

The 16-man construction team is made up of workers from three different groups; WSDOT maintenance, rail and asphalt, Riebold said.

The work is expected to be completed by the end of the week or early next week, with Grand Avenue taking two to two-and-a-half days and the other two streets occupying a day, Gardes said.

While Grand Avenue was able to maintain some level of traffic while crews dug up the railroad and repaved over the old asphalt, State and Kamiaken streets will see complete road closures, he said. The WSDOT provided traffic control for the Grand Avenue work, while the City of Pullman will control traffic for the other two sections.

Due to the rails being state-owned, WSDOT paid for the project, Gardes said. The rails can be removed due to the line being inactive for years, a bridge being out between Pullman and Colfax and another active line being available downtown, he said.

“We’ve talked to [WSDOT] about it probably on-and-off for a year or so,” he said. “It’s just taken a while to kind of get all of the ducks lined up.”