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City on track to create ‘quiet zones’

T-R PHOTO BY JOE FISHER — The railroad crossing on Second Street is a particular point of contention, according to Mayor Joel Greer. The city is still considering several ideas about how to improve the crossing when implementing new quiet zone safety measures.

Marshalltown is going full steam ahead on adopting quiet zones in hopes to hush train traffic.

The Marshalltown City Council has been going around the track on the idea of bringing the long awaited measure to town for more than a year. It recently included $600,000 in the 2020 general obligation bond to fund engineering and non-street improvements. A budget of $400,000 from the Road Use Tax Fund will be dedicated to street and sidewalk updates.

During a city council meeting on Monday the council approved an agreement with Bolton and Menk to work on the project.

Now the city will seek approval for improvements from the Federal Railroad Administration.

Four railroad crossings will need to be addressed to make quiet zones a reality in Marshalltown.

T-R PHOTO BY JOE FISHER — The railroad crossing on Twelfth Avenue is one of four crossings the Marshalltown will address to establish quiet zones in the city. The crossing already has flashing lights and crossguards.

• Twelfth Avenue

• Second Street

• Sixth Street

• Twelfth Street

Mayor Joel Greer, a supporter of the project, noted there has been some discussion about what to do at the Second Street crossing.

“Some people think it ought to be closed because it’s easy to go another block or two to get from the north to the south side of town,” Greer said. “There was some talk of building a pedestrian bridge over Second Street. That might be kind of expensive, even prohibitively so.”

There are varying types of quiet zones, including:

• Partial Quiet Zone –Horns silences for part of the day.

• Full Quiet Zone — Horns are silenced 24 hours per day.

“We are planning to implement a zone that would install safety improvements to provide a zone for train horns not to be used unless for the specific instances that Union Pacific is required to use a horn,” said Jessica Kinser, Marshalltown City Administrator.

Greer said mitigating the sounds of train horns could help the community develop, particularly downtown.

“We can make Main Street come alive by having more housing,” he said. “Cutting out train whistles is one way to do that.”

According to the FRA’s Train Horn Rule, train engineers are required to sound their horns 15-20 seconds in advance of passing a public crossing. Communities have the option to establish quiet zones to qualifying crossings, but horns will still sound in emergency situations. Quiet zone rules also do not stop train horns from sounding in train yards.

The tracks running east to west through Marshalltown are owned by Union Pacific Railroad. The company’s stance is that quiet zones “compromise the safety of railroad employees, customers and the general public.” If the FRA permits a quiet zone, UPRR will work with the community to establish the updates needed.

“We understand the community doesn’t necessarily want to hear the horn at times,” said Raquel Espinoza, senior director of communications for UPRR.

Espinoza noted that additional safety measures may need to be added to some crossings to secure the quiet zone corridor.

A definitive timetable has not been set for the start or completion of the project.

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Contact Joe Fisher at 641-753-6611 or jfisher@timesrepublican.com

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