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Plant City Observer Friday, Jul. 7, 2017 1 week ago

All's (mostly) quiet on the downtown front

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Plant City will enter an engineering agreement with CSX for creation of quiet zones at downtown rail crossings.
by: Daniel Figueroa IV Staff Writer

The City Commission recently authorized Interim City Manager Kim Leinbach to enact an agreement with CSX Transportation to create quiet zones at downtown rail crossings.

In conjunction with CSX, the Florida Department of Transportation, the Federal Railroad Administration and Plant City, six road crossings and one pedestrian crossing will receive safety and signage upgrades. The six road crossings are at Baker Street, Reynolds Street, Collins Street, East Dr. Matin Luther King Jr. Blvd., South Evers Street and South Wheeler Street. The pedestrian crossing is at Herring Street.

“They were pretty good at laying on the horn coming through there,” Assistant City Manager Bill McDaniel said.

The quiet zones, McDaniel said, will be “beefed up crossings and warnings to give trains the confidence to get through crossings without making any noise.”

According to city documents, the improvements will include gates at crossings that don't have any and signage for trains entering the city as well as citizens entering crossings.

To construct the quiet zones, the City received a $165,000 matching grant from FDOT for a total of $330,00 in project funding. Now that the project has been approved by commissioners, City Engineer Michael Schenk said work can begin to make the improvements. CSX contractors will be responsible for most of the work, Schenk said. However, Plant City will be responsible for improving the condition of the pedestrian crossing.

“A quiet zone doesn’t equal a silent zone,” Leinbach said. “Conductors will still be able to use the horn at their discretion if they perceive an emergency.”

While horns can be viewed as a nuisance, Leinbach said, they are used for safety. McDaniel said he recently came across a video where participants were asked to indicate when they could detect a nearby train. He said he was surprised at how close trains need to be for people to realize they’re there.

“It added a lot of perspective for me,” McDaniel said.

It’s been a long process to establish these zones, McDaniel said. Preparations can be traced back about 15 years to when the city closed certain crossings. Had that not been done, it would've been the first step in the current project and delayed further implementation, he said.

Leinbach added projects like this can often take longer to come to fruition than might appear necessary. All agencies involved in projects like this (state, local, federal and private, in this case) must come to agreements together. Additionally, funding applications can be intense. In order to qualify for grants, Leinbach said, sometimes your plans need to have plans.

Schenk said the creation of the quiet zones will begin as soon as CSX receives a check from the city.

Daniel Figueroa IV is a Staff Writer at the Plant City Times & Observer. He has been covering Plant City since 2017. Previously, he was the politics and veteran affairs reporter at the Ledger of Lakeland. He probably wants to ride motorcycles and trade books with...

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