Chesterton Tribune



Town Council awards RR quiet zone feasibility study contract

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The Chesterton Town Council has awarded the contract for a railroad quiet zone feasibility study to CTC Inc. of Fort Worth, Texas.

Members voted unanimously at their meeting Monday night to award the contract at a price not to exceed $71,427.18.

Two other firms also provided responses to the councils request for proposals, issued earlier this summer: Weaver Consultants Inc. of Chicago ($225,090); and James F. Giannini & Associates of Chesterton ($35,980).

Member Jim Ton, R-1st, said on Monday that, after discussing all three responses on Sept. 13, at a meeting of an ad hoc committee created to review them, it was decided to award the contract to CTC based on its experience: CTC has completed 40 quiet zone projects for the Union Pacific Railroad alone, totaling 170 grade-crossings; and has completed 60 other such projects totaling 450 grade-crossings.

The committee agreed that the engineering study will include all railroad crossings in the municipal boundaries of the Town of Chesterton, Ton added: South Calumet Road; North Fourth Street; North Eighth Street; North 15th Street; North Jackson Blvd.; Waverly Road; Locust Street; North Calumet Road at Indian Boundary Road.

CTCs feasibility study will begin with a preliminary risk assessment based on traffic history, current and projected traffic patterns, and infrastructure improvements and transportation issues along the proposed quiet corridor. With this information in hand, CTC will then perform an analysis of each grade-crossing based on specific federal criteria for establishing quiet zones. During analysis, we will provide quiet zone treatments that meet federal and state guidelines, focusing on safety measures that could be used to fully compensate for the absence of a train horn, CTC said.

Those safety measures include the following: four-quadrant gates with vehicle detection; median/channelization arrangements at least 60 to 100 feet in length on each side of the grade-crossing; one-way street with a gate or gates across the roadway; and wayside horns.

CTC will then prepare and submit the final feasibility study showing the preferred option for improvements at each crossing within the quiet zone along with estimated costs.

The expected timeline for delivering a completed feasibility study to the Town Council: 55 weeks, about a year.

It would take at least three more years, however—and possibly as many as four—before any quiet zone could officially open in Chesterton: 38 weeks to engineer the retrofits; 32 weeks for CSX and Norfolk Southern to perform its own engineering; 13 weeks to hold a comment period on the project; 52 weeks actually to construct the retrofits and 18 more weeks for the town to implement roadway improvements; 52 weeks—if necessary—to submit a Public Authority Application; and five weeks to issue notices of a quiet zone establishment.

NIRPC Designation

In somewhat related news, Ton reported on Monday that the Northwestern Indiana Regional Planning Commission has officially been designated an “economic development district.”

That’s important, Ton said, “because it will make federal money available for distribution in amounts we have not seen before.” “This comes at a good time, now that we’re moving ahead with a railroad quiet zone,” Ton added. “We can’t afford to do it without grants.”

Park Impact Fee

In other business, members voted unanimously to adopt an ordinance which increases the park impact fee paid by developers and builders per unit of new residential construction from $889 to $994: a 12-percent bump.

The ordinance came to the council from the Advisory Plan Commission, which voted unanimously to adopt it following a public hearing at its meeting last week. Revenues from the fee—paid per new residential unit—are used exclusively for the development of new recreational infrastructure serving new residential growth.

Chuck Lehman of Lehman & Lehman Inc., a landscape architecture firm based in Mishawaka, told planners at last week’s meeting that a complete inventory was taken of the town’s recreational assets—park acreage, number of ballfields and playgrounds, miles of trail—and then that inventory compared to population growth over the last five years.

Under state law, park impact fee ordinances automatically expire in five years—the town’s will in February—and must be renewed by ordinance. Lehman’s finding: $1.3 million in future recreational needs have been identified: multi-use fields, basketball courts, shelters, restrooms, playgrounds, a splash pad, trails, and open space. And the proposed increase in the park impact fee would be needed to fund those needs, Lehman said.

He noted that the average park impact fee for comparable municipalities in Northwest Indiana is $1,315, so even with the increase the $994 proposed fee would come in at the low end.


Posted 9/25/2019




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