Monday, July 20, 2009

City completes another step toward downtown quiet zone

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The city of Monroe, La., once again has completed another project in its five-year struggle with Kansas City Southern railroad to observe a “quiet zone” through downtown, according to the Monroe News Star. City engineer Sinyale Morrison said Public Works installed two concrete transversal curbs on both sides of the tracks on North Fourth Street this week.

Back in March, city officials thought they had completed all aspects of what was required by the railroad, the Federal Railway Administration and the state Department of Transportation and Development. At that time, the railroad asked the city to close off a North Fourth Street entrance to a city parking lot south of the railroad tracks and the entrance nearest the track to Washington Plaza on the north side of the tracks. Those tasks were recently completed with a new entrance being constructed to the south side parking lot closer to DeSiard Street.

The city’s engineering department thought it had completed the tedious process of applying for a Federal Railroad Administration quiet zone through downtown last August after three years of work. Morrison then reported at the end of August the FRA had accepted the city’s application and placed it on the agency Website. ??In September, letters were sent to police, fire and ambulance services saying the designation would become reality. Things then came to a standstill until Morrison was notified about the parking lots and then the curbs.

The city started more than three years ago trying to get a quiet zone as increasing train traffic made it harder to conduct business downtown. The city closed North Second, Third, Fifth and Sixth street crossings and gated crossings at Walnut-South Grand, Fourth and DeSiard streets. The plan eventually is to construct an underpass at North Fourth Street.

Councilman Jay Marx said the designation would mean a quieter working environment for downtown businesses and better traffic flow. He said by closing the four crossings downtown, trains are already moving faster and making fewer stops that block traffic.

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