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Monday, November 23, 2009

BNSF will back quiet zones in Galesburg, Ill.

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BNSF has agreed to fund a significant amount of the cost of closing eight railroad crossings in Galesburg, Ill., to develop quiet zones, according to city engineer Wayne Carl,

 The Register-Mail reports.

The city has been negotiating with BNSF for some time to try and come to an arrangement to cover the cost of a project that would have benefits for both groups.

 Carl said BNSF agreed in October to cover a large part of the project costs. A funding commitment also has been secured from the Illinois Commerce Commission. 

Together, BNSF and the ICC have agreed to fund 56 percent of the estimated $2.5-million project, according to Carl. It is understood that BNSF has agreed to fund a bigger slice of the 56 percent than the ICC.

The establishment of quiet zones would reduce money BNSF spends maintaining railroad crossings.

A special City Council meeting will be at 6 p.m. Monday at the Galesburg Public Library to discuss the proposed quiet zones. Representatives from BNSF, the ICC and city officials will attend the meeting, which is open to the public. 

Carl said the city plans to focus on the Chillicothe subdivision first, where six railroad crossings could be closed. The six crossings do not include West Main Street or North Seminary Street, where overpasses are to be developed with state funds. A third grade separation is planned at East Main Street. 

Among the crossings that could be closed are North West Street, North Cherry Street, North Kellogg Street, North Pearl Street and Whitesboro Street. Closing the crossings would mean train drivers would not have to sound their whistles, reducing noise pollution.

Carl said one purpose of the Nov. 23 meeting is for city officials to get direction from the City Council on which crossings aldermen think should be closed. Input from the public also will be welcomed. He estimated that the earliest a Chillicothe subdivision quiet zone could be established would be in the summer of 2012.

The city has been planning to establish railroad quiet zones for some time. In 1999, the Federal Railroad Administration announced it was creating new regulations requiring trains to sound their whistles every time they approached an intersection. The regulations where designed to protect the public, but also led to increased noise. In 2004, the City Council hired consultants to investigate establishing quiet zones in Galesburg.

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