Homeowners asked to help prevent mudslides
EVERETT - Mudslide-prone places along the Everett-Seattle railroad corridor will be fixed later this year.
Meanwhile, homeowners above the tracks will soon be educated in what they can do to prevent slides through brochures and workshops.
Homeowners who have problematic drainage routes that cause slides are being identified, Burlington Northern Santa Fe spokesman Gus Melonas said.
Nine out of 10 slides come from debris above the tracks, Melonas said.
“A major factor is drainage from residential properties above the rail lines,” he said, adding that many homeowners aren’t aware their drainage systems are causing the slides.
One of the solutions will be to lay drainage pipes down the slopes to direct storm water into trackside culverts. Homeowners can also help by not dumping debris down the slopes, said David Smelser, state Department of Transportation Amtrak Cascades program manager.
One of the more egregious things people do is dump water from their swimming pool down the slope, Burlington managing engineer Megan Reagan said.
“The bottom line is the property owner is responsible for blocking events,” Smelser said. Authorities will encourage, instead of force, property owners to make the slopes more secure, he said.
The six spots set for slope work are between Mukilteo and Everett. Two are in Everett and four are in Mukilteo.
Some of the slope fixes include adding retaining walls, digging deeper catch basins for dirt and constructing buttresses along the slopes. Burlington already spent millions of dollars doing some of this work on its own in the past few years.
Last winter is widely acknowledged as the worst mudslide season in decades, stopping Sounder North and Amtrak service 85 times.
Two trains were derailed because of slides, including an Amtrak train on April 7. No one was injured in either incidents.
There were 200 slides in the Pacific Northwest, and 95 percent of those happened on this area of the corridor.
With 40 to 50 trains on the line on any given day, “it’s extremely important this line stays clear,” Melonas said.
Over the past decade, Burlington spent millions of dollars fixing slide problems created by property owners above the tracks. Melonas wouldn’t say if homeowners will start being charged for remedial work when a slide happens.
Work on two Mukilteo spots should be done by next spring, Reagan said. Other fixes are still in the design phase.
The northernmost slope repair site is near the Port of Everett, the site of the most notable slide. A mudslide there on Nov. 19 derailed a freight train and video of the derailment made national news.
Another slide repair spot in Mukilteo is where one of the most extreme slides occurred: A homeowner lost a significant amount of his backyard in the slide. Burlington is now working with Mukilteo officials to install a pipe there, Reagan said.
The fixes are funded by a $16 million Federal Railroad Administration grant.
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