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Creating rail ‘quiet zones’ could cost Batavia $4 million

BataviMayor Jeff Schielke

Batavia Mayor Jeff Schielke

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Updated: March 2, 2013 11:39AM

BATAVIA — It could cost $4 million to create railroad “quiet zones” for eight train crossings along the east side of the city.

The City Council’s City Services Committee will meet at 7:30 p.m. Tuesday to review cost estimates and preliminary engineering for work to buffer the noise from freight trains on the Burlington Northern Santa Fe spur track which sound warning horns when passing through town.

“It’s a hefty amount for us to absorb,” Mayor Jeff Schielke said.

After years of hearing complaints from residents, the city commissioned the engineering consulting firm Rempe-Sharpe & Assoc. of Geneva to conduct a quiet zone study.

Schielke said the complaints of the train horns have been ongoing and seasonal, especially in the summer when residents have their windows open.

“That’s when it seems to be most problematic,” the mayor said.

Noel Basquin, city engineer, said the freight trains move cargo from industrial parks in Aurora and West Chicago to the industrial areas in Batavia, mainly during the evening and overnight hours, with four to six cars at a time.

“It is not what you would consider intercontinental freight,” Basquin said.

The Federal Railroad Administration requires train engineers to sound horns at all public grade crossings unless certain design standards and improvements are made to create quiet zones. All of Batavia’s eight railroad crossings have flashing signals, but they do not have crossing gates.

The mayor said some of those FRA requirements, such as medians 150 feet on either side of the crossing to prevent motorists from going around the gates, would create “problematic issues,” especially at the intersection of Prairie and Wilson streets.

“A median in the middle of the street would block driveways and cause all other kinds of consternation,” Schielke said.

Schielke said the proposed price tag itself would be problematic.

“I am not of the opinion there would be a lot of people in the mood for a tax increase,” he said. “It wouldn’t be an easy sell.”

“The line has been here since 1855 – it’s been part of the town from the beginning. With the increasing population and cars, it is probably time for us to do something,” Schielke said.

The engineering consultants said part of the challenge is the “geometry of the spur track and the way it turns through the city and meets streets in different skewed angles.” Each crossing has to be approached differently, they said.

The preliminary quiet zone study puts gates and constant warning time circuits, as well as other improvements at the crossings at Raddant Road, East Wilson and Prairie streets, and Van Buren and Adams streets.

The study puts 28-foot gates and other improvements at the crossings at Webster Street and Laurel Street.

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