LINCOLN, Neb. (KOLN) – For nine months, the people of southern Lincoln had to get used to blowing horns through their neighborhood at least once a day.
They called for a quiet zone and on Tuesday at the Railroad Transportation Safety District Meeting the first cost estimates of what would be required were released.
Mark Meisinger, an engineer at Felsburg, Holt, and Ullevig, told the board that a conservative, preliminary estimate is about $ 1.4 million to make any necessary changes to the intersections along the route.
“We tried to find an alternative that was as inexpensive as possible,” says Meisinger.
The changes vary in terms of cost and complexity. From $ 900 for signage at the 33rd Street intersection to $ 550,000 for raising the median, adding curb barriers, and adjusting pedestrian crossings at 56th and Old Cheney Roads. Many of the intersections would also require expensive technological upgrades to the mechanisms that control when the intersection arms fail.
That cost estimate is likely to be missing about $ 1 million, Meisinger said, because the RTSD board has not yet been able to schedule a diagnostic meeting with stakeholders such as BNSF, OPPD, NDOT, Lancaster County, and City of Lincoln Transportation and Utilities. Even though they tried.
This meeting could lead the railways to request additional changes than those proposed at Tuesday’s meeting.
“The railways are all about safety,” said Roger Figard, Executive Director of the RTSD. “Philosophically, they don’t believe that quiet zones increase safety by eliminating horns. They see this as one of the biggest deterrents to reminding people that they are there.
10/11 NOW asked Figard how the RTSD board reconciles these safety concerns with the quality of life concerns that the horns have raised for some people in Lincoln.
“It can be a quality of life issue, but I know there are people in this community who have health problems, people with special needs who can really be annoyed by noise, and we don’t want to ignore that,” Figard said.
Jane Raybould, a councilor who sits on the RTSD board of directors, said she heard the trains from her neighborhood near the S 20th and Highway 2, and her neighbors too.
“They cruise often and at different times of the day and are quite noisy; they wake me up at night, ”said Raybould.
But Raybould and Figard said quality of life and safety are not the only factors.
“The RTSD only has that much money,” Figard said.
He said it will depend on what the board’s priorities are. Another major project that RTSD is working on are major changes to the 33rd and Cornhusker level crossings. This project could cost at least $ 75 million and run 50-70 trains a day on this route, compared to the 40-60 crossing Highway 2 for a month.
Another way to address these concerns and save money would be to only implement the quiet zone on part of the train route. During the quiet zone study, the engineers examined how far the train’s horn goes and how many parcels are affected at each intersection.
The intersections with the highest number of parcels affected by the Horn are Southwood Drive intersection near 20th and Highway 2 affecting 427 lots and Junction 27th and Highway 2 affecting 427 lots. The intersections with the highest number of lots and closest to the tracks where the horn is loudest are 70th Street and Yankee Hill.
The RTSD board hopes to receive another update at its December 6, 2021 meeting.
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