Friday, February 19, 2010

Downtown train horns silenced in Tulsa

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The downtown Tulsa, Okla., area is now a quiet zone for train horns, officials said. The "quiet zone," or Downtown Sealed Corridor Project, which consists of five extended railroad crossings, requires railroad operators to not blow their horns in designated downtown areas except in emergency instances, the Tulsa World reports.

Dennis Whitaker, a city of Tulsa planner, said the enhanced safety project went into effect Feb. 11 after a 21-day notice period - which informed Union Pacific, BNSF, SKO Yard and Sand Springs Railway of the change.

The $750,000 project was funded through the 2006 Third Penny Sales Tax, and a $1,481,159 federal appropriation for Safety Hazard Elimination, officials said. The funding was approved through the 2001 Third Penny Sales Tax, but a shortfall caused the project to be deferred to the 2006 Third Penny Sales Tax, officials said.

The city of Tulsa and Brady Village property owners spawned the project's idea after owners suggested a sealed corridor would encourage downtown revitalization. The project's completion likely will result in quieter surroundings for downtown residents and businesses, officials said.

Marlin Keranen, general manager of the Crown Plaza Hotel, 100 E. Second St., said that the quiet zone will "definitely increase our guest experience and cut down on complaints."

Keranen said Crowne Plaza has lost more than $1 million in business in the past year and a half after airline crews and other top clients opted to reside at other locations because of the noise.

But Luke Harris, a Brady Heights resident, said the whistle didn't bother him or his family.

"I can hear it, but it doesn't disturb us," said Harris, 28.

Albert Cronhein, manager at Mexicali Border Cafe at 14 W. Brady St., said he wants to hear train whistles.

"It makes downtown Tulsa alive," he said.

The project also included a loop detector system that will detect a vehicle inside the gates and allow it to exit before the gate arms come down. Longer gate arms have also been installed at Greenwood, Elgin, Cheyenne, Elwood, and Guthrie crossing sections to prevent vehicles from driving between them and onto the railroad tracks.

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