Trains Can’t Toot Their Own Horn

Trains Can’t Toot Their Own Horn

A railroad crossing crosses 1st St. north of the Farmer’s Market in Edmond, Okla. (Ryan Naeve/ The Vista). 

Railroad quiet zones may soon be in Edmond after funding was approved last month for a study to determine the necessary requirements for the city’s railroad crossings to be in compliance with federal and railroad quiet zone safety standards.

Quiet zones are one or more consecutive railroad crossings where the use of locomotive horns are prohibited during routine conditions. Horns are still to be sounded in emergencies, to comply with federal and railroad authority regulations or at the discretion of the trains’ operating crews.

Last year the Edmond City Council set aside $200,000 of the city’s 2017 budget for the purpose of contracting a study to evaluate the implementation of quiet zones throughout the city. This year the council was able to approve funding for a study to be conducted by Texas-based CTC, Inc. at their July 24 meeting.

Approved at a cost of $57,000, the study’s funding comes from the city’s general fund unassigned reserves for emergencies and shortfalls. As the original $200,000 was only a placeholder, the only expenditure for the project will be the $57,000, according to city spokesman Casey Moore.

While funding for the study represents a major step forward in the process of implementing quiet zones, the most difficult part consists of evaluating the individual crossings and determining the feasibility and affordability of a quiet zone at each one, according to City Engineer Steve Manek.

We have to do a quiet zone study to meet the Federal Railroad Authority as well as the Burlington Railroad and Santa Fe requirements. We can’t just go out and implement a quiet zone and say this is going to work,” Manek said.

Both the FRA and the railroads have specific regulations that need to be met to ensure that planned quiet zones are safe and that constant order is maintained between railroad tracks.

Specific considerations include the number of trains that utilize the tracks, the number of vehicles that regularly cross, the proximity of driveways to the crossing and the infrastructure of each crossing, according to Manek.

“The existing infrastructure will have to be evaluated to determine if constant warning is available, which is how the gates communicate with trains. Can a median be installed, are quad gates necessary, should a constant warning horn be used?” Manek said.

The study is expected to be concluded by December.  As each of the city’s 11 crossings present distinct differences, the study will need to individually evaluate each crossing for possible safety and infrastructure considerations.

Once completed, the consultant will then work with the City of Edmond as well as the federal and railroad authorities to determine what measures will need to be implemented and if there will be any long term maintenance costs for whatever measures are installed.

“This is not an easy process, this is the just the beginning study to determine what is feasible, estimate the costs and then see if they can be implemented,” Manek said.

Decreasing noise pollution from Edmond’s train crossings has been a topic of discussion among city officials and community members for several years, according to Moore.

Citizen interest was the main driving force, while the other piece is to make downtown a more desirable place for housing,” Moore said.

Downtown Oklahoma City and Norman have already implemented quiet zones earlier this year.

 

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