Safe, but costly way to make railroad crossings quieter heads to east side neighborhood

A railroad crossing in an east side Madison neighborhood is now being designated as a “quiet zone” after a push from neighbors.

Workers were out Wednesday afternoon upgrading a stretch of railroad covering Waubesa and Corry streets as a quiet zone.

Quiet zones are designated areas where trains are required not to blow the horn except in the event of an emergency. Federal law requires trains to blow the horn at any crossing unless it’s in a quiet zone, according to the city’s Engineering Division.

“(The horn) can interrupt your sleep. You can’t talk on the telephone if you’re outside. You have to wait. So we’re thrilled not to have this horn noise soon,” said Laura Clees, who lives on Corry Street just a few houses down from the crossing.

She said neighbors had been pushing their alders to find the money to pay to upgrade the railroad crossings for a while.

Clees even has a “NO TRAIN HORN” sign in her yard.

“You have to have some kind of safety measures (but) the horn is what’s most intrusive, what’s most obnoxious,” Clees said.

Safe, but costly way to make railroad crossings quieter heads to east side neighborhood

Hannah Mohelnitzky, spokesperson for the city’s Engineering Division, said Madison currently has 85 at-grade railroad crossings and 26 of the crossings have the required equipment for a quiet zone.

Mohelnitzky said upgrading a crossing to a quiet zone is usually about $250,000. Most of the current quiet zones were funded through TIF and a small amount of general obligation debt.

“There’s no way we can possibly pay and fund $250,000 at least for each one to upgrade them to a quiet zone. So it does take some planning, takes processes, and it definitely takes some money,” Mohelnitzky said.

The city has to apply for the quiet zone, and the railroad reviews what the necessary upgrades would be to upgrade a crossing. Each zone has to be at least a half-mile long.

The Federal Railroad Administration requires that railroad crossings that are quiet zones to have flashing lights and gates, power out indicators and constant warning time.

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