Trolley Tracks Unearthed in Willamette Street Construction

New Construction, Old Find

In the process of building a new pedestrian/bicycle crossing on Willamette Street at 12th Alley on Monday, 28 April 2014, construction workers came upon the buried remains of what appear to be old trolley tracks. City of Eugene inspectors were called in by the Eugene Sand & Gravel crew, and determined that the find should be further investigated by the Oregon State Historical Preservation Office.

Eugene Public Works spokesman Eric Jones stated that workers had dug up approximately fifty linear feet of the roadway’s surface, about 18 inches down, before coming upon the trolley tracks. Trolley tracks have been discovered several times in recent road construction projects, Jones said. While working on a repaving project last summer, a construction crew discovered old trolley tracks and basalt paving stones under Willamette Street at 20th Avenue. Several years ago, trolley tracks were found under East 13th Avenue along the western edge of the U of Oregon campus.

“[…] We can’t proceed with the work until this is resolved,” Jones stated Monday, adding that he is unsure when state historic preservation officials will be available to inspect the now-unearthed trolley tracks.

Photo credit: JMazzolaa / Foter / Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike 2.0 Generic (CC BY-SA 2.0)

Photo credit: JMazzolaa / Foter / Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike 2.0 Generic (CC BY-SA 2.0)

“A Balancing Act”

Finds of this nature are often “a balancing act” for public works departments, Jones said. “We want to balance the historical value of whatever’s in the ground with our desire to get the job done in a timely fashion […],” he said. To that end, the tracks and pavers from the Willamette and 20th project were excavated and used as part of decorative artwork on a traffic diverter.

The construction project has restricted traffic in a two-block section of Willamette between 11th Avenue and 13th Avenue—only one lane is available for southbound traffic; all northbound traffic is detoured. City officials expect these restrictions to persist for the next several weeks. Alternate routes are recommended: Lincoln Street for southbound traffic and Oak Street for northbound drivers.

The construction project in downtown Eugene had been underway for only a matter of hours before the discovery was made.

This story was first reported by the Eugene Register-Guard.