The Ashland Railroad Yard is a vacant 20-acre parcel owned by Union Pacific near downtown. DEQ has approved Union Pacific Railroad’s plan to begin clean up at the site in mid-2017 to remove most of the contamination from the site and enable Union Pacific to potentially sell all, or a portion, of the property.  DEQ’s approval follows a 30-day public comment period and a community information meeting in January 2017.

The work will take place in several phases and is currently scheduled to begin in mid-2017 after Union Pacific retains contractors and builds a temporary rail spur to allow for railcar loading at the center of the site.
The cleanup calls for:
  • Excavating about 18,700 cubic yards of contaminated soils from two contaminated areas.
  • Removing and disposing of contaminated soil and debris from two man-made ponds and a former locomotive drip slab.
  • Transporting contaminated materials to a permitted landfill using railcars.
  • Backfilling and re-grading excavated areas using clean soil brought into the railroad yard from offsite using trucks.
  • Stockpile clean soil and contaminated soil temporarily onsite in order to coordinate with excavation activities and the delivery of railcars.
Cleanup is scheduled to be completed in 2018 and Union Pacific expects to submit a final report for DEQ’s review and approval in early 2019. At that time DEQ will invite public comment, before determining whether further action is necessary for the property.

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, polynuclear 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.

Related links and documents


Greg Aitken, Project Manager