Cheers and jeers

Cheers — to the increasing momentum behind efforts to improve tunnels on the Siskiyou Summit rail line. Backers now include Oregon and California government officials plus local governments and agencies.

The proposal is competing for $500 million in federal dollars, but supporters think they have a better case than most. For starters, the Siskiyou proposal seeks just over $7 million, and would boost commerce by resuming freight traffic between Oregon and California, potentially opening 100 miles of rail line for relatively little money.

The tunnel work would accommodate the taller freight cars now used by railroads, saving fuel and replacing thousands of trucks that now haul freight over the summit on Interstate 5.

Jeers — to the release of 820 prisoners from the Jackson County Jail just since Jan. 1 because of overcrowding. We don't blame sheriff's department officials, who are as frustrated as anyone over the situation. The county can do only what it has the money to do. But the "revolving door" operation sends a message to criminals that they have a good chance of being released quickly. Police say keeping arrestees in jail keeps them from offending again while they are inside, so early releases actually increase the crime rate.

The answer is more county funding, which may eventually mean a tax levy to support jail operations.

Cheers — to a new use for the former Children's Museum in Jacksonville, which will become an art exhibit space operated by Art Presence under a sublease agreement with the Jacksonville Heritage Society. The Heritage Society leases four historic sites from the Southern Oregon Historical Society, which relocated to Medford two years ago. The Heritage Society has been working to sublet the properties to groups that will maintain them and reopen them to the public.

Jacksonville's historic properties are a tremendous asset, but only if they are open to the public. It's good to see at least one getting ready to welcome visitors back inside.

Cheers — on another historical note — to an agreement between Douglas County and the U.S. Coast Guard that will keep the magnificent Fresnel lens intact and operating at the Umpqua River Lighthouse at Winchester Bay. The lens, comprising 616 prisms and 2,000 pieces of crystal, has been sending beams of light 20 miles out to sea since 1894.

The Coast Guard determined in 2010 that the light was no longer necessary for safe navigation, but supporters were afraid the Coast Guard would remove the light and put it in a museum. The new agreement means the light will remain in place and operating as a tourist attraction.

Share This Story