Railroad Property Project Updates

The Ashland Railyard is a vacant 20-acre parcel owned by Union Pacific near downtown, between A Street and Hersey Avenue.  It was active for almost 100 years until 1986.   In the late 1990s, soil and groundwater contamination were discovered in portions of the railyard and reported to the Oregon Department of Environmental Quality.  The property owner voluntarily requested DEQ's oversight in 1996 to investigate and clean up heavy metals, oils, and oil by-products.

Since then, DEQ received several proposals to clean up residual contamination and make it safe for current or future property owners to develop the property.  The most recent cleanup plan was approved by DEQ in 2017 and it included excavation of about 19,000 cubic yards of contaminated soil for off-site disposal using railcars.

However, in late 2017 Union Pacific suspended its cleanup plan when it realized that new EPA toxicity estimates would likely mean that less cleanup would be needed to make the site protective of human health for future development.   DEQ agreed that this might be the case, and allowed Union Pacific to re-evaluate site data and reconsider its cleanup options using the new EPA toxicity estimates.
Recent Developments
UP is proposing to excavate about 2,800 cubic yards of contaminated soil in the western 9 acres of the railyard, and spreading it in the eastern 3 acres of the railyard where it would be covered with clean soil.  This 3 acre portion of the property would be secured from any physical contact with people using fencing and it would be off-limits to future development without DEQ review and approval.    

View DEQ's Public Notice proposing to approve the cleanup plan, including information about how to provide public comments.  DEQ decided in December 2022 to postpone their public comment period, pending further discussions with Union Pacific and the city of Ashland about several components of the proposed plan.

View DEQ's Draft Staff Report for the proposed cleanup.
History of the Site

The railroad yard was operated by the Southern Pacific Railroad Company between 1887 and 1986 as a locomotive fueling, maintenance, and railcar repair facility near downtown Ashland. Most buildings were removed from the yard in the 1980s. A small portion of the railroad yard is currently leased to the Central Oregon and Pacific Railroad and is used on occasion for switching and storing railcars.
Environmental investigations in the 1990s revealed that soil and groundwater in portions of the railroad yard are contaminated with petroleum hydrocarbons, polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons, lead and arsenic. Contaminant levels in some areas of the property are higher than DEQ’s cleanup standards for human health if the property were to be developed for residential or commercial uses.
In 2006, Union Pacific proposed to excavate about 35,500 cubic yards of contaminated soil to meet DEQ’s criteria for unrestricted residential use. DEQ did not approve the 2006 plan due to concerns raised by many Ashland residents about the use of trucks to haul contaminated soil on city streets. In 2013, Union Pacific submitted a new cleanup plan that called for excavating about 18,700 cubic yards of soil and using railcars to haul the contaminated soil to an approved landfill. Union Pacific delayed implementation of its cleanup plan until Ashland modified a deed restriction on the property, which it did in 2016.

Railroad Clean Up Timeline (in reverse chronologic order)

December 14, 2022
DEQ notified city staff that it will postpone the originally scheduled January 5, 2023 public meeting, after Union Pacific notified DEQ that it needed to revise the 2022 cleanup plan.  Further discussions between DEQ, Union Pacific, and city staff are ongoing to review several components of the proposed cleanup plan, and allow for possible modifications to DEQ's draft staff report.

December 5, 2022
City of Ashland staff sent a letter to DEQ with questions and comments about the 2022 proposed cleanup plan.  

October 15, 2022
DEQ issued a Public Comment notice that announced a revised cleanup plan for the Ashland railyard.   The notice requested comments by November 30, 2022.

December 21, 2017
The US Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) recently revised certain toxicity parameters for benzo(a)pyrene, which is the primary contaminant at the Ashland rail yard.  EPA has determined that this compound is less toxic than previously thought. The Oregon Department of Environmental Quality (DEQ) routinely incorporates EPA updates into its risk assessment process once published by EPA.
Consequently, Union Pacific Railroad (UPRR) is requesting DEQ re-evaluate the contaminant risks of the railroad property and UPRR has withdrawn the approved 2016 remediation plan. Click here to read the letter from UPRR to DEQ.
DEQ will conduct its review in January 2018 and subsequently provide an update to the City of Ashland. 

December 4, 2017
Click here to read the letter sent to UPRR from DEQ.

September 18, 2017
UPRR is finalizing the remediation bid documents.  Award of the remediation contract and installation of the rail spur is expected to occur in early fall.

June, 6, 2017
UPRR is still working through some logistics with CORP.  Construction and installation of the rail spur will not begin until early fall. 

February 23, 2017
Click here to read the approval for cleanup of the Ashland railroad property.   Refer to page 5 and scroll to #6 Implementation of Cleanup Plan.

December 27, 2016
DEQ will host a public meeting on Thursday, January 19, 2017 in the Community Center at 59 Winburn Way at 7:30 p.m.  Representatives from DEQ and Union Pacific will be at the meeting to share information and to answer questions about the clean up of the railroad property. Click to read the letter and fact sheet.  For more information visit the DEQ UPRR webpage.

July 7, 2016
UPRR will submit a revised remedial action plan to DEQ for approval.  Once the revised plan is approved, UPRR will develop a timeline to complete the project.  The Remedial Action Plan is the document that details how the cleanup project will be implemented and the actions that will be taken to meet DEQ requirements. 

June 14, 2016
The Planning Commission approved a revision to the deed restriction that clarifies the type of clean up for consistency with DEQ standards so that: 1) before the 20-acre site can be divided into smaller lots or developed, the initial cleanup of the 20-acre site would be to the residential standard and 2) future subdivided lots would have to be cleaned up to the standard DEQ requires for the proposed use of the individual lots: the “occupation” standard for retail, office, or light industrial uses; the residential standard for ground level housing.

June 7, 2016
The City of Ashland has requested an amendment to a deed restriction on the railroad property. The proposed amendment clarifies the timing and type of clean up for consistency with DEQ standards.  The Ashland Planning Commission will review this proposed amendment at their meeting on Tuesday, June 14, 2016 at 7:00 p.m. at the Ashland Civic Center at 1175 East Main Street. Click here to view the Planning Action. To read more about this topic click here.

April 5, 2016
This item will be on the agenda for the City Council meeting on April 5, 2016.  Click here to read the information.

January 21, 2016
On January 5, the City Council directed staff to prepare, file and seek approval of an application for an amendment to the planning action that created the original deed language.  The new deed will reference applicable DEQ standards, such as development of individual parcels must be remediated in conformance with the DEQ risk standards for the actual uses of the parcels.
Staff is now working with DEQ to finalize the deed language and with UPRR to ensure the new deed language meets their concerns.  The Planning Commission will likely review the amendment in early March.  The City and UPRR will work towards a mutually acceptable agreement that details the City’s expectations of UPRR.  To read the staff report on this topic click here and to read the minutes from the January 5 City Council meeting click here.

January 5, 2016
At the study session in October, council asked staff to prepare some options on modifying the existing deed restriction to be compatible with DEQ remediation restrictions.  This item is on the agenda for January 5, 2016.

October 6, 2015
UPRR and DEQ made a presentation to the City Council at the council meeting on October 6. To read the minutes click here.  To view the video click here.

September 21, 2015
Posted below is a PDF titled Answers to Questions.  These are responses from DEQ to questions posed by the City.

August 18, 2015
The response letter from DEQ to the City of Ashland is posted below.

August 17, 2015
At the request of the City Council at their August 4 meeting the City sent a letter to DEQ expressing the City's concerns regarding the use of trucks for soil removal for the proposed fuel vault.  The letter is posted below.

To view the August 4 City Council meeting click here.  The discussion occurs about 44 minutes into the video for about 30 minutes and again at 173 minutes into the meeting.

Updates will be posted to this page as more information is available from both UPRR and DEQ.

Union Pacific Railroad (UPRR) has informed the City of their plan to remove an underground fuel storage bunker from their property and about 7,500 cubic feet of dirt that surrounds it; an area covering about two acres.  Oregon Department of Environmental Quality (DEQ) considers this low-risk contaminated soil; contaminated primarily with petroleum and petroleum byproducts.

They expect the project to take five weeks, working Monday through Saturday from 7:00 a.m. to 5:00 p.m. and anticipate approximately 25 trucks per day.  Existing soil will be removed and replaced with clean fill.  The City has required that all truck loads be covered and truck wheels  be washed before the trucks leave the site.  The trucks will enter and leave the property via Clear Creek Drive, Oak Street and Eagle Mill Road.

The City has required erosion control, dust control and fire prevention measures to be in place for the duration of the project.  In addition, the City has required UPRR set aside funds for potential street repairs.

When the City is informed of the date the project will begin, letters about the project will be mailed to all residences and businesses in the area located in the shaded area of this map.
Many details are still being worked out between UPRR and DEQ.  Updated information will be posted on the City website as more information becomes available from UPRR.

Filetype Description
120417 LETTER FROM DEQ TO UPRR.PDF (155.6kb)
120717 LETTER FROM UPRR TO DEQ.PDF (483.3kb)
12 30 16 ASHLANDRAILYARDSTAFFMEMO12302016.PDF (5333.4kb)
Letters will be mailed to all residences and households withi the shaded area about the UPRR project.
10 14 15 UPDATED BRIEF HISTORY.PDF (116.6kb)
Scroll to the fifth page and refer to #9.
AITKEN RE RR CLEANUP 081115.PDF (620.5kb)
8 13 15 DEQ RESPONSE TO MAYOR.PDF (812.3kb)

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