STERLING – As part of its riverfront development project, the City Council on Monday hired a consulting firm to study the feasibility of creating a railroad “quiet zone” to enhance the quality of users’ experience and the lives of those living in the area.
The council agreed to pay Minneapolis-based SRF Consulting Group Inc. $42,000 to study four railroad crossings, at Avenues B and K and two crossings on private land, to determine if allowing trains not to blow their horns at any or all will meet U.S Department of Transportation Federal Railroad Authority guidelines for the creation of a quiet zone.
The federal train horn rule requires trains to sound their horns at all public highway-rail crossings, unless they are given such a designation.
“A quiet zone is a section of a rail line at least one-half mile in length that contains one or more consecutive public highway-rail grade crossings where train horns are not routinely sounded as they approach,” according to SRF’s project proposal.
Such zones “allow communities to improve residents’ quality of life by reducing the noise pollution caused by train horns without posing a risk to public safety” by adding other safety measures, such as gates with flashing lights and power outage indicators.
The Avenue B and K crossings, which are six-tenths of a mile apart, already have such safety measures in place.
If the other two crossing to the west are to be included, the city first will have to pay for and install the required safety measures. The city also will have to pay Union Pacific for any of its involvement, also above and beyond SRF’s fee.
The study will include meetings with the railroad authority, the state Commerce Commission, the Illinois Department of Transportation, Union Pacific and potentially affected property owners, including those adjacent to the crossings, and those who own “historically and architecturally significant homes” west of the site.
City staff, elected officials, law enforcement and emergency responders also will be consulted “as necessary,” according to the proposal.
It will take four to six months to determine what is needed at each crossing, and “if all goes smoothly,” construction will begin in 2024, said Andrew Mielke, SRF vice president.
The money for the study will come from Capital Fund dollars already designated for riverfront redevelopment.
Morrison, which has the same Union Pacific railroad line running adjacent to the downtown, has a quiet zone involving six crossings; the village of Thomson in Carroll County also has one.