Railroad Property Project Updates


On October 3, 2023, City Council voted to recommend approval of the proposed remediation plan as proposed to DEQ. DEQ has extended the deadline for Public Comments to October 31, 2023 at 5PM.

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

Railroad Map

Current Cleanup Proposal

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. Environmental investigations 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.

The Department of Environmental Quality (DEQ) is the authorized regulatory agency responsible for overseeing, approving, and monitoring all proposed cleanup activities on the property. DEQ's involvement ensures that the cleanup efforts adhere to established environmental guidelines and standards, and that they align with the best interests of public health and the surrounding ecosystem.

Union Pacific Railroad (UPRR) has contracted with environmental consultants to develop a cleanup strategy for their entire property. This plan includes excavation and encapsulation of contaminated soil to ensure the safety and viability of the land for subsequent development according to urban residential standards. 

About 2,800 cubic yards of contaminated soil will be excavated from the western 9-acre portion of the railyard. The excavated soil will be moved to the eastern 3-acre section of the railyard, where it will be covered with an overlay of clean soil.

DEQ Open House took place on September 27, 2023, Public Comments were originally due on September 29, 2023. DEQ has extended the deadline to October 31, 2023 at 5PM.

DEQ has scheduled a public open house on September 27th at the Ashland Public Library, starting at 5:30 pm. This event is an opportunity for local residents, stakeholders, and other interested parties to hear the plan details, ask questions, and express any concerns.

View DEQ's Public Notice proposing to approve the cleanup plan, including information about how to provide public comments.  DEQ has requested all comments be submitted to them by 5:00 p.m, on September 29, 2023. DEQ has extended the deadline for Public Comments to October 31, 2023 at 5PM.

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

Ashland Railroad Property Prior Cleanup History
In 2017 a cleanup plan for the Union Pacific Railroad property was approved by DEQ.  This prior plan 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 the EPA made changes to its toxicity estimates and cleanup standards. Union Pacific re-evaluated the plan under the new cleanup standards which would require a different standard of cleanup for Suburban Residential 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.

History of the Railroad Property
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.

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.
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.

Current Railroad Clean Up Timeline (in reverse chronologic order)
October 31, 2023
DEQ extended public comment period ends at 5PM, on October 31, 2023.

October 3, 2023
DEQ Presented at the City of Ashland City Council Meeting. DEQ's presentation was an updated version of the presentation on the Railyard Property Remediation Plan delivered to the public on September 27, 2023. Following comments and concerns from the public, DEQ updated their presentation slides with some of the information that the public requested, including examples of other sites, and clarifying what the City Council was voting on, process, etc. The October 3rd meeting was held to update City Council on the Remediation Plan and hold a vote to make a recommendation for approval, denial, or amendments of the Remediation Plan to the decision-making authority, DEQ. City Council voted to recommend approval of the proposed remediation plan as proposed to DEQ. View slides from the presentationView the Council Communication.

September 29, 2023
DEQ extends public comment period to October 31, 2023 at 5PM.

September 27, 2023
DEQ held a public meeting in the Gresham Room at the Ashland Public Library at 5:30 PM to gather public comments for the revised cleanup plan for the Ashland Railyard. Public Comments were originally due on September 29, 2023 but DEQ has extended the deadline to October 31, 2023 at 5 p.m.

September 6, 2023
Planning staff posts physical notices on the UPRR property, alerting neighbors to the upcoming public meeting.

September 1, 2023
DEQ mails out letters to affected neighbors of the UPRR property in Ashland. Link to letter. 

May 9, 2023
Planning staff brought a Type 2 Public Hearing to the Planning Commission. A request to modify a condition of approval and change a deed restriction that was required in a 1999 planning approval (PA 99-048), amended in 2016 (PA-2016-00684), and recorded on the vacant 20-acre site owned by Union Pacific Railroad (UPRR). The deed restriction required that the 20-acre site meets Oregon Department of Environmental Quality’s (DEQ) cleanup standards applicable to a “single residential property” before further land divisions or development occurs. The proposed revision to the deed restriction clarifies the site be cleaned to an “urban residential standard” to enable future development consistent with the E-1 zoning of the property including commercial, employment, and ground floor residential within mixed-use and apartment buildings. The modified condition stipulates the deed restriction would be removed from the property upon the City receiving written documentation from the Department of Environmental Quality demonstrating compliance with these standards.

March 21, 2023
Planning staff brought an update to City Council on behalf of UPRR and DEQ. The update included a request to modify a 2016 deed restriction (Restrictive Covenant) on the Union Pacific Railroad (“UPRR”) rail yard property in Ashland. After completion of full-site remediation to DEQ’s cleanup standards, the proposed revised deed restriction would allow subdivision and development of individual parcels upon further remediation in conformance with the DEQ risk standards applicable to the proposed actual uses of the parcels and the parcel-specific risks posed by the actual contaminants on them. 

December 14, 2022
DEQ notified city staff that it was postponing the originally scheduled January 5, 2023, public meeting, after Union Pacific notified DEQ that it needed to revise the 2022 cleanup plan.

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.

Archive Prior Railroad Clean Up Timeline (in reverse chronologic order)
September 27, 2023

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) requested DEQ re-evaluate the contaminant risks of the railroad property and UPRR withdrew the approved 2016 remediation plan. Click here to read the letter from UPRR to DEQ.
DEQ conducted its review in January 2018 and subsequently provided an update to the City of Ashland. 

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

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

December 27, 2016
DEQ hosted 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 were at the meeting to share information and to answer questions about the cleanup of the railroad property. Click to read the letter and 2017 fact sheet.  For more information visit the DEQ UPRR webpage and the DEQ Documents webpage.

April 5, 2016
A City Council meeting took place on April 5, 2016.  Click here to read the information.

January 5, 2016
At a City Council meeting, Councilors 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 references 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. January 5 City Council meeting click here.

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.

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

August 4, 2015
To view the City Council meeting click here.

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

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