Wednesday, October 28, 2009

Frankfort, Ill., on track with plans to soften railroad noise

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Frankfort, Ill., is moving full speed ahead before the freight trains really get rolling along the Canadian National Railway tracks in its community, the Southtown Star reports. Village officials have been working with engineers and residents to soften the blow of what is expected to be 28 daily freight trains.

Trustees recently approved a quiet zone feasibility study detailing safety improvements at every crossing from Harlem Avenue to 116th Avenue. It now goes to the Federal Railroad Administration and the Illinois Commerce Commission for approval. Village administrator Jerry Ducay said if all goes well with that approval process, work could begin in the spring and be completed by this time next year.

Once all work is completed, train engineers would not be required to sound the horn at each intersection unless there is a danger present. CN is paying for all improvements.

Ducay said he has seen no increase in rail traffic and figures CN has been operating four to six trains a day.

To date, the village also has issued $400,000 out of a $2.7-million pot provided by the rail company to landscape homes near the tracks to further reduce the noise level. Homeowners are allowed to pick their own landscaping contractor, but must submit a plan for approval and a building permit from the village.

To distribute the funds among 300 homeowners, the village developed a four-tier system, with payments ranging from $1,000 to $12,000.

"Our goal is to spend $500,000 this season and gear up again in the spring," Ducay said. "Most people will have all winter to prepare."

Even though the village has five years to spend the money, Ducay said officials hope to use it all within two years. Sound mitigation funds must be spent on landscaping walls, fences, berms, trees, evergreens, shrubs, perennials and mulch or stone. While some homeowners wanted a sound wall, it was not financially feasible, Ducay said.

Funding levels for Frankfort homeowners impacted by the Canadian National Railway:

Tier 1: $10,000 to $12,000 for properties adjacent to the railroad tracks.

Tier 2: $6,000 to $8,000 for properties separated by ComEd lines.

Tier 3: $4,000 to $5,000 for properties separated by another parcel.

Tier 4: $1,000 for properties separated by a street.

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