Thursday, February 25, 2010

High cost derails railroad quiet zone talk in Medina, Ohio

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Medina City, Ohio, will not be a railroad quiet zone, at least not any time soon, the Medina Sun reports. At its most recent meeting, Medina City Council chose not to pursue a quiet zone in city limits as part of the city's planned railroad improvements. A quiet zone would eliminate the use of train horns while traveling through the city.

Medina will upgrade railroad surfaces at five locations in the southern quadrant of town, an estimated $340,000 in total cost, and also add gates, flashers and railroad circuitry to several other locations, an additional cost of $1.74 million.

The costs for both portions of the project will be shared by five different entities - the Ohio Rail Development Commission, Northeast Ohio Areawide Coordinating Agency, Public Utilities Commission of Ohio, Wheeling & Lake Erie Railway and city of Medina.

"A quiet zone requires some un-included and very expensive upgrades," Medina Engineer Patrick Patton told Council on Monday night.

If pursued as part of this project, a quiet zone would have cost the city an extra $600,000 to $700,000, paid in whole by Medina, Patton said.

According to Patton, the proposed gates in the project do not meet standards for a quiet zone. All gates in a quiet zone must be quad gates that would render the roadway impassible over the tracks. Medians, placed 50 or 60 feet from the crossing, were another option that would block crossover traffic, but the involved roadways are not wide enough to support median barriers.

Council members turned down the quiet zone option due to the anticipated expense. After hearing the cost, at-large councilman John Coyne admitted that a "quiet zone may be out."

Patton said one other option to reduce train noise in the southern quadrant would be to add a "track-side horn," which would include a horn at each railroad crossing, concentrating the noise to that locale.

"It's not really a quiet zone, it's a more quiet zone," Patton said of the trackside horn option.

The cost of such a project would be substantially less than the cost of creating a quiet zone, Patton emphasized. "My understanding is it is minimal," he said of the cost.

While trackside horns will not be included in the upcoming project, the option remains a possibility in the future. "We'll look into it a little bit and see what is offered," Patton said.

The council approved a Memorandum of Understanding with WLE for construction and improvement of railroad surfaces at five locations in the southern quadrant - S. Prospect Street, Medina Street, S. Huntington Street, S. Elmwood Street and W. Smith Road. Of the $340,000 in total cost for this portion of the project, Medina will pay $204,461, sharing the cost with WLE.

A second portion of railroad improvements is also being planned. In September 2009, Medina received a letter from the ORDC that alerted Medina officials to several railroad crossings in the city that do not meet Ohio Manual of Uniform Traffic Control Devices standards.

Under this plan, new gates and flashers would be added at W. Smith Road, S. Court Street and Medina Street. In addition, railroad circuitry would be rewired at seven locations - S. Elmwood, S. Court, S. Huntington, S. Prospect, Medina St., S. Broadway, and W. Smith - to allow trains to provide further advanced notification at crossings. The ORDC, NOACA, and PUCO will share the $1.74 million cost of this portion with Medina, which will pay an estimated $568,887.

After the project is completed, all crossings on the southern portion of town, except one location, will have gates - a fact that increased concern that train speed limits would increase through town.

Both portions of the project will be funded by 108 funds, which can only be used for street or sidewalk repairs.

Patton estimated that work on the surface upgrades portion would begin by April. Patton hoped work on the second portion, including the installation of gates and rewiring, would begin by the end of the year.

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