Mukilteo train debate continues

MUKILTEO – The City Council is at odds with Burlington Northern Santa Fe Railway over how to keep trains from blowing their whistles as they pass through Old Town Mukilteo.

Railway officials asked the council this week to consider fencing off the Mount Baker Avenue Crossing in Old Town and spend $1.5 million to build a pedestrian overpass to the waterfront. The railroad has offered to pay 5 percent of the costs.

However, council members would rather have a four-crossing bar system built at Mount Baker Avenue. They’re concerned traffic could become congested on the waterfront if the crossing is shut down.

Also, council members said, a pedestrian overpass would take longer to build and could cost more than what railroad officials have said it would.

“Our incentive isn’t to save money, but to be darn sure we’re getting the quiet zone we’re paying for,” City Councilman Tony Tinsley said.

A railroad crossing with four crossing bars – designed to keep cars from weaving between the gates – would allow the city to ask the Federal Railroad Administration for a quiet zone, allowing trains to pass through without blowing their horn, as required by federal law.

To build a four-gate system would cost about $1.2 million, and railroad officials have offered to pay half the installation costs, Mukilteo public works director Larry Waters said. The Port of Everett has agreed to spend $600,000 for the quiet-zone upgrade.

Additional track work required for a four-bar system could push the project’s costs to $1.9 million, railroad officials said at Monday’s council meeting.

The Mount Baker crossing is currently closed because the railroad tracks are being moved to accommodate the new Sounder station.

Railroad officials urged the city to close the crossing to all but emergency vehicles. They said train engineers will still blow their horns when they see people near the tracks. They also said the city could be exposed to more lawsuits from accidents by insisting on a four-bar crossing.

There have been four accidents at the crossing since 1974, railroad officials said.

“If we use that logic, I think we’d have to close every road in Mukilteo if they’ve had four accidents in the past 25 years,” Councilman Marko Liias said.

Reporter Scott Pesznecker: 425-339-3436 or

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