Chesterton Tribune



Report: Chesterton RR quiet zone could cost $2 million

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Here’s the first thing advocates of a railroad “quiet zone” should know: it could cost upwards of $2 million to retrofit the four grade-crossings in the Town of Chesterton to comply with Federal Railroad Administration quiet-zone regulations.

Here the second thing they should know: it would take at least 14 months to complete the process and possibly as long as three years.

Here’s the third thing: unless the Town of Porter agrees to retrofit its own grade-crossing--at Wagner Road--train engineers will still be forced to sound their horns a quarter-mile east and west of that grade-crossing, which means that there’ll be nothing quiet at all about the Chesterton’s North 15th Street grade-crossing, located only .15 miles from the Wagner Road grade-crossing.

That’s the essence of report which Mike Jabo of DLZ presented to the Town Council at its meeting Monday night.

Begin with the process itself. it’s basically a three-phase process, Jabo told the council, Phase I of which could take as long as 13 months and cost up to $55,000. That’s because it involves a morass of bureaucracy with “safety partners” culminating in a Notice of Intent.

The actual retrofit--which Jabo referred to as supplementary safety measures (SSMs) would be designed in Phase II. SSMs could include road center curbs, pavement widening, and pedestrian mazes, the engineering of which could take up to 12 months to complete and cost up to $140,000, with the town paying for any improvements which the railroad itself would have to design.

The actual retrofit wouldn’t take long, two to six months, Jabo estimated. But the cost could be huge: the town’s portion between $70,000 to $150,000, and the railroad’s portion--which the town would have to pay itself--up to $1.5 million.

Jabo added this crucial point: if the Wagner Road grade-crossing is not also retrofitted, eastbound trains will still have to sound their horns a quarter-mile west of that crossing and westbound trains a quarter-mile east of it, that is, well before a westbound train even hits the North 15th Street grade-crossing.

Jabo had a few other things to say as well. “You could meet with the safety partners in Phase I, realize the costs would be astronomical, and just pull the plug,” he suggested, although the $45,000 to $55,000 which the town had already spent on Phase I activities would be lost.

Jabo also noted that some municipalities have successfully negotiated the bureaucracy and spent the money. One of them which quiet-zone advocates frequently cite is Schererville, whose quiet zone cost significantly less than would generally be expected. But there’s a backstory to the Schererville quiet zone, Jabo said. “At that time the EJ&E line was being sold to Canadian National line and in order for the sale to go through they had to appease communities up and down the line. So Schererville got into it at the right time.”

In the end members voted unanimously to take Jabo’s report under advisement and to discuss the feasibility of quiet zones at their budget workshop later this summer.

But Member Emerson DeLaney, R-5th, cautioned quiet-zone advocates. “This could take two to three years,” he said. “It could also cost millions of dollars. And money like that doesn’t come out of the General Fund. We’re stewards of the town’s money and have to balance things out for all the people who live in town. This would cost a lot of money and a lot of other things wouldn’t take place. That’s our challenge: to take care of all the residents and be good stewards of the public’s money.”

President Jim Ton, R-1st, hesitated as well, finding Phase I of the process all by itself a tough nut to crack. “I think the first dilemma is to decide if we’ve got the wherewithal to do the first step. Do we have that kind of money to gamble and get nothing from it if we have to back out?”

“There may not be a grasp of the fact that it’s more than telling the railroad not to blow their horns,” Ton added.



Posted 6/13/2107




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