Mini Mousehole nabs design funding; Union Pacific says it can be supportive of project
UPDATE: 3 p.m. FridayTRUCKEE, Calif. andamp;#8212; Faith and good omens could be the greatest driving forces for the townandamp;#8217;s Mousehole pedestrian safety project.Truckee Town Council on Oct. 21 unanimously approved a $303,873 design contract with HDR Engineering for further planning of a pedestrian undercrossing, which will allow the engineering firm to build 30 percent of the design plans, allotting $289,403 to HDR for estimated costs with a $14,470 contingency budget.However, the approval comes despite no guarantees of an OK from Union Pacific Railroad, the land owner of the project site.andamp;#8220;Are you getting any closer with the railroad … or are we just throwing money into the project now?andamp;#8221; asked council member Mark Brown.Town Engineer Dan Wilkins explained the railroadandamp;#8217;s desire for detail and planning would be a crucial aspect of the projectandamp;#8217;s final approval by Union Pacific.andamp;#8220;The railroad wants a much higher level of information on the projectandamp;#8217;s design before theyandamp;#8217;re willing to give us any kind of commitment in writing,andamp;#8221; Wilkins said. andamp;#8220;So what this would do is move us one step closer toward that level of detail thatandamp;#8217;s going to be necessary to get serious consideration.andamp;#8221;In a Friday interview, Aaron Hunt, director of Corporate Relations and Media for Union Pacific Railroadandamp;#8217;s western region, confirmed the need for more information; however, he said after enjoying a andamp;#8220;wonderfulandamp;#8221; working relationship with the town for many years, the railroad will do its best to see the townandamp;#8217;s safety needs are met. andamp;#8220;We are more than happy to sit down with the different stakeholders there for finding a way to see this project through,andamp;#8221; Hunt said.Wilkins said while it is unfortunate the town must work under uncertain conditions, he said granting the design funding is the best route considering the railroadandamp;#8217;s rights to the land.andamp;#8220;(The railroad guards) it with great care, and quite frankly they are not interested in this project because they donandamp;#8217;t see it as providing any benefit to the railroad,andamp;#8221; Wilkins said.The project would need to get to the 60 percent or 90 percent design phase before Union Pacific would even consider approval, he added.andamp;#8220;In other words, we have to ante up before we see the cards of the railroad,andamp;#8221; said council member Richard Anderson.Wilkins agreed, yet said the only other way would be to accept the railroadandamp;#8217;s suggestion of building a rail bridge across Donner Creek and across Highway 89 for trains during construction. Wilkins said the estimated cost of this option would be $30 million in construction costs, but would almost guarantee Union Pacificandamp;#8217;s approval.The majority of Union Pacificandamp;#8217;s concerns, Wilkins said, are that the bore carving out the pedestrian tunnel could cause the track above to cave in, potentially harming construction crews and the trains running above.andamp;#8220;They are very concerned about the potential for destabilizing the railroad track,andamp;#8221; he said. andamp;#8220;Weandamp;#8217;re convinced that we can construct that bore without destabilizing the railroad tracks, but itandamp;#8217;s going to require a high level of detail for the railroad to be comfortable with that.andamp;#8221;Hunt said a significant amount of trains pass daily through the Truckee/Nevada County region, and, so long as long safety is assured, the railroad is willing to be supportive of the Truckee project.andamp;#8220;… Our first priority is safety andamp;#8212; for ourselves and the community up there,andamp;#8221; he said. andamp;#8220;And the second priority is to operate our trains safely through that area.andamp;#8221;Wilkins told council members approval risks are worth the price of the project, which aims to ensure pedestrian safety from automobile traffic.andamp;#8220;We could get to the end of this project and find that the railroad isnandamp;#8217;t willing to approve it. I donandamp;#8217;t think that will be the case, but there is always that risk,andamp;#8221; Wilkins said.