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Friday, August 28, 2009

Tulsa 'quiet zone' delayed

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Tulsans who love to hear the eardrum-piercing sound of a train blowing its horn as it slowly snakes through downtown will be glad to know the city still has a ways to go before it can designate part of downtown a "quiet zone," according to the Tulsa, Okla., World.

For at least the third time, city officials have pushed back the date they expect to complete the installation of vehicle-proof railroad crossing gates intended to eliminate the need for trains to use their horns downtown.

"I'd love for Phase 1 to be done before the (downtown baseball) ballpark opens (in April), but I just can't say," Steven Carr, city of Tulsa senior planner, said.

The first phase of work includes installing the new gates at Greenwood, Elgin, Cheyenne, Elwood and Guthrie avenues.

City officials have always been reluctant to give a definitive date as to when the project would be completed while acknowledging that it is taking longer than expected.  In October 2007, they estimated it would not be done for at least a year. In October 2008, they said they hoped to have it completed by spring of this year, and in May the projection was pushed back to the end of the year.

Carr said nailing down a completion date has been difficult because the company installing the new crossings, BNSF, is constantly learning from crossings the company has installed in other cities and is modifying its plans for Tulsa accordingly.

"They're trying to avoid those issues here in Tulsa, so (the project) has taken a few turns," Carr said.

BNSF's spokesman, Joe Faust, said the company never gives a definitive completion date.

Once Tulsa's new gates are ready, the city can ask the Federal Railroad Administration to designate a 3,600-foot quiet zone through downtown, officials say.