After multiple delays, the city has officially entered the final step in bringing the CSX quiet zone near the Midtown District to life.
After some brief delays, the city is finally on its way to seeing the long-promised quiet zones for the railroad near Midtown come into existence.
During a Community Redevelopment Agency meeting Monday evening, a unanimous vote authorized the executive director to approve the advance payment of $449,676.00 for the construction of four-quadrant gates at Wheeler Street and other safety improvements along the railroad.
This is far from the first time the CRA has gone through the steps of getting the Quiet Zone implemented on the railway. Unexpected hurdles continued to take them back to the drawing board and with the burgeoning Midtown District on the horizon they were eager to get this change in place.
“They initially went through this process months ago,” City Manager Bill McDaniel said. “A design was created and the city was given a price for the installment. Then CSX looked at the plan and wanted to add this and that. Ultimately it’s entirely their call, so our only choice was to go through with it. The new plan obviously had a price change when they came forward with the redesign, but we’re ready now to approve the updated plan and get this rolling.”
On Aug. 6, the construction agreement for the quiet zone between CSX and the city was officially and fully executed. However, CSX required the city pay up front for the work.
The four-quadrant gates at Wheeler Street will fully stop traffic in both lanes and CSX will also be installing back lights at East Baker Street and East Reynolds Street. Crossbucks and signage will be constructed at the pedestrian crossing at East Herring Street.
The $449,676.00 for the project came from the CRA funds. City Engineer Michael Schenk said he anticipates construction to begin at the sites within two months of the final payment with another month or so of work necessary for CSX to get the improvements done to each and every crossing in question.
The addition of a quiet zone would mean residents of the upcoming Midtown District would not hear the loud train whistles during the middle of the night. Currently, trains loudly announce their presence as they drive through downtown, warning both pedestrians and commuters to stay clear of the tracks.
Conductors base their whistle blowing on the Federal Railroad Administration’s specific requirements, which detail how long, when and where the train must sound its horn. Designated quiet zones act as an exemption to the FRA’s strict horn rules, but the city is only asking for the zone to encompass the section of track that wraps around the Midtown district. If there is an emergency or any safety issues, however, the train may disregard the zone and sound the horn.
Because of safety concerns for areas without constant auditory warnings — especially at night when cars and pedestrians may fail to see how close the train actually is and attempt to go through the crossing — CSX requires a plethora of safety precautions to any track and crossing in the zone.
The track that runs through the heart of downtown is not part of the quiet zone, so it will not see any construction or changes.