NORTH RIDGEVILLE - Mayor David Gillock admitted this week that creation of a so-called "quiet zone" at each of the city`s four major railroad crossings hadn`t been at the top of the city`s wish list when it comes to getting some of the billions of dollars being handed out in federal stimulus money.
"It was a long way from the top priority," Gillock said.
Rather, the city was hopeful of receiving funds for the long-awaited, much-debated widening of Center Ridge Road, the city`s main east-west traffic artery. It has become increasingly congested in recent years from added traffic as thousands of new homes and new commercial centers have sprung up along it.
Still, the city isn`t about to look an $800,000 federal gift horse in the mouth, especially when it will end the hundreds of times whistles blow each day as trains come rumbling through town at four different railroad crossings.
Train crews no longer will have to alert motorists at crossings on Chestnut Ridge, Maddock, Race and Root roads with the often-shrill whistles after so-called "quad" gates are installed at each crossing. Quad gates will be installed on either side of railroad tracks, all of which are operated by Norfolk-Southern. The double gates block both lanes of traffic so motorists cannot drive around one set and onto the tracks.
The $800,000 in stimulus money will be combined with another $800,000 in funds secured with the help of then-U.S. Rep. Sherrod Brown for upgrades of circuitry at the city`s four Norfolk-Southern crossings.Â The two sums of money now will be administered jointly for the two projects by the Ohio Rail Development Commission, an independent body within the Ohio Department of Transportation that works to improve passenger and freight rail service throughout the state.
"The commission will make up the difference, if any, between the estimated and actual costs for the circuitry upgrades and quad gates," Gillock said.
Norfolk-Southern has put up $137,000 for engineering costs and other work on the railroad crossing circuitry upgrades, Gillock said. The circuitry improvements will adjust the timing of crossing gates to prevent them from lowering too far in advance of the approach of slow-moving trains.
"It`s a safety feature for them in that people tend to go around gates that are down too long before a slow train gets to a crossing," Gillock said.
Once the quad gates are installed, the city will apply to the Federal Railroad Administration for designation as a quiet zone. Assuming that designation is granted, Norfolk-Southern and any other rail line that travels through the city will no longer require its trains to blow warning whistles at crossings.
And considering that 70 to 80 trains rumble through town each day, that`s a lot of whistling.
"Each train is required to blow its whistle three times at each crossing. You can hear them all over town," Gillock said.
Gillock hopes to have the quad gates installed at all four crossings by September 2010. Once the gates are in place, the city will be required to pay for their upkeep.
"We don`t know exactly how much that will cost yet, but it could be up to $50,000 a year," Gillock said.
Contact Steve Fogarty at 329-7146 or firstname.lastname@example.org.