Nighttime construction for EmX west line builds more opposition from residents

On June 22, Daniel Eubank couldn’t sleep.

Across the street from his home, about 100 feet from his window, construction for a new stop on the West Eugene EmX bus line had begun. A long ditch was being dug where the corner of West 6th Avenue and Polk Street used to be. Close to the intersection, B & G Automotive is decorated with “NO Build” signs protesting the expansion.

A continuous “very loud, whining screech,” along with truck backup alarms and occasional bangs, kept Eubank up for most of that night. The next morning he contacted Lane Transit District to ask about noise mitigation strategies.

He did not receive a response until June 29, when an LTD representative offered to loan him an air conditioner to reduce outside noise.

“The offer did not apply to the other families in my neighborhood,” Eubank said, “some much closer to the construction site.” He turned down the offer, hoping for a more permanent solution, one that involved official mitigation strategies proposed by the Federal Transit Administration.

Long before construction crews were drilling close to the Eubank household, residents have demonstrated considerable pushback against LTD’s westward extension of its rapid bus line, which was approved by the Eugene City Council in fall 2012. They opposed the extension for various reasons, including disrupting businesses in the area, costing too much and the fact that several bus lines already run on the planned route.

Our Money Our Transit (OMOT), a group opposed to the extension, filed a lawsuit against the city of Eugene that was rejected by a judge in July 2014.

According to the environmental assessment of the expansion project, compiled by the FTA in July 2012, when LTD receives specific complaints from residents about construction noise, the contractor could be required to put one of several mitigation strategies in place. These include relocating equipment, rescheduling construction or placing acoustic barriers around construction sites. When nighttime construction ended on June 9, none of these mitigation strategies had been adopted.

“It is noisy, there’s no doubt about that,” said Andy Vobora, director of customer services and planning for LTD. But as to a noise reduction strategy, “there really isn’t [one],” said Vobora. “We have to stay below standards, which I understand to be pretty high in Eugene.”

Because 6th Avenue is a state freight route, LTD had no option about working at night. It was required, according to Vobora. Contractors prefer working at night because there is less traffic, and it allows them to “move through there as quickly as possible,” said Vobora.

Construction noise between 7 p.m. and 7 a.m. is prohibited by section 6.750d of the city code, but because the work is contracted through the City of Eugene, EmX is exempt from most regulations. The Oregon Department of Transportation is not currently aware of any code violations by LTD.

Noise hasn’t been the only issue that construction in the area has posed. Bob Machione, a representative for OMOT, said an apartment on West 6th Avenue experienced separated sewer pipes due to vibrations caused by construction.

LTD is still on “phase one” of the extension, which spans West 6th and 7th Avenues from Charnelton to Garfield Street. They are just starting outreach to businesses west of Garfield, notifying them of upcoming construction noise. The project is expected to be completed by fall 2017.

In the morning following a sleepless night, a letter arrived in Eubank’s mailbox informing him of nighttime construction that would occur near his home. Inside: two free bus passes.

“I’m not against EmX expansion,” Eubank said. “I’m not even against working at night.”

Eubank just wants the residents of Eugene to be heard.

“Some token would make me feel better,” he said. “More than some free bus passes.”

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Noah McGraw

Noah McGraw

Noah is the 2016-17 Senior News Editor at the Emerald. His earliest journalistic influences were Tom Wolfe, Eric Schlosser and Batman. He loves '70s comics, '80s action movies and '90s music.