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Railroad crossings in Lincoln, Neb., closer to closing

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The city of Lincoln, Neb., is moving closer to closing J Street railroad crossings in the South Salt Creek Neighborhood at Second and Third streets, the Lincoln Journal Star reports. Closing the crossings would please Burlington Northern Santa Fe, with which the city is negotiating to buy a railyard near the Haymarket for a new arena, if voters approve building one in the spring.

But that’s not why the
city is closing the crossings. It’s part of a plan to create
a second quiet zone in Lincoln — a corridor where trains can stop
blowing their horns after crossings are closed or better secured.

The City Council will
hold a public hearing Dec. 7 on the financing for the closures. The council
previously has approved an interlocal agreement with a railroad safety board
that calls for the closings, as well as improved safety measures at two other
crossings.

The federal government
requires trains to blow horns at unprotected at-grade rail crossings, but the
horns can be silenced if crossings are closed or safety is beefed up with
raised medians, lights and gates. The rest of the plan involves building
medians to prevent daredevils from going around gates at the crossings at First
and J and Third and D streets.

The South Salt Creek
Community Organization supports the plan, but one vocal resident of the
neighborhood, Danny Walker, has opposed it. He’s concerned fire trucks would
have trouble reaching the neighborhood if the crossings close.

When a public crossing is
closed, the state and railroad each contribute $5,000 toward the costs. The
state will pay as much as $12,000 for construction costs associated with each
closure. And while the point of closing the crossings and installing safety
features is to help create a quiet zone, railroads generally prefer closures to
reduce the chance of collisions with cars and people.

"It interests the
railroad to close a crossing any time they can," City Engineer Roger
Figard said.

Figard could not say when
the crossings will close, but construction of medians at the Third and D likely
will begin next summer. The neighborhood will hear about it before the
crossings close, he said.

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