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Downtown Partnership executive blasts Union Pacific for not cleaning up garbage along train tracks

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Train company cited for code violations 

Downtown Reno Partnership Executive Director Neoma Jardon on Monday blasted Union Pacific Railroad allegedly for not managing massive amounts of trash along train tracks in Reno. Jardon said DRP workers had to clean up 44 tons of trash on UP property, which she said may not even be legal.

“We have exhausted, over the last few years, every opportunity to get Union Pacific to come to the table and partner with us to address these issues, as many other entities and agencies have,” she told the Nevada Department of Transportation board of directors.  

The trash, she said, included homeless encampments and toxic waste. The city has removed 654 yards of trash while the DRP has collected 44 tons from downtown railroad property.

Tents along downtown train tracks.
Image courtesy of the Downtown Reno Partnership and used with permission.

“We absolutely cannot get Union Pacific to engage with us in any real meaningful way or to reimburse us for our efforts to clean up their property,” Jardon added. “We spend 60% of my organization’s time cleaning up trash, dealing with encampments and toxic waste and human waste [and] safety issues. We just can’t get them to come to the table.”

She said UP has not responded to repeated inquiries; instead, she pleaded with the NDOT board to help encourage UP to be more responsive. 

U.S. Congressman Mark Amodei (R-Nev.), who also spoke at the meeting, chided UP for its lack of communication with local governments in Nevada. 

“You don’t have to get up too early and study Nevada maps to know that everything from Verdi to Wendover is totally surrounded by checkerboard private ownership of the Union Pacific Railroad,” he said. “All those towns along there deal with the Union Pacific Railroad for things as mundane as cutting the weeds in Carlin, for things as mundane as, ‘Hey, can you please not park the trains so that nobody can get from one end of Carlin to another if they’re first responders, medical, fire, police, whatever.’” 

“Code Enforcement will continue to review the area and issue a citation to Union Pacific for identified violations.”

He said UP officials need to communicate better with local jurisdictions.

“I shouldn’t have to be a guy who’s responsible for calling,” he said. “I have to call the president’s office in Omaha to get him to just say hello to Elko four years ago. I think I made the Union Pacific terrorist watchlist from that.”

He suggested UP officials report to the NDOT board annually.

Union Pacific issued citations

UP spokesperson Meg Siffring said the company has been in touch with city leaders.

“Union Pacific regularly meets with the City of Reno and has coordinated multiple cleanups in the downtown area,” she said. “With the City’s partnership, we have another cleanup scheduled this month.

“Homelessness is a challenging issue and a growing social problem that state and local governments across the U.S. are struggling to get their arms around,” she added. “Despite efforts to keep our tracks clear and safe, illegal dumping and camping is happening on Union Pacific property, creating public safety risks. Union Pacific is committed to its partnership with the City to address these issues collectively.”

Jardon acknowledged UP has cleared areas of trash, but “once every three months is not sufficient.”

City of Reno documentation shows UP told the city in January the company “would not address activity on their parcels as the building owners and tenants are responsbile.”

A month later, the city indicated its code enforcement division was issuing citations, but “Union Pacific is directing these citations to the building owners and has outstanding fines for this area totaling $1,066. Due to the extenuating health and safety concerns for the community, Code Enforcement will continue to review the area and issue a citation to Union Pacific for identified violations.”

Bob Conrad
Bob Conradhttp://thisisreno.com
Bob Conrad is publisher, editor and co-founder of This Is Reno. He has served in communications positions for various state agencies and earned a doctorate in educational leadership from the University of Nevada, Reno in 2011. He is also a part time instructor at UNR and sits on the boards of the Nevada Press Association and Nevada Open Government Coalition.

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