Almost exactly a
year ago, in May 2016, Chesterton resident Stuart Franzen submitted a Voice
of the People to the Chesterton Tribune, urging the Town Council to
implement so-called “quiet zones” at the town’s railroad grade-crossings, as
permitted under Federal Railroad Administration (FAA) rules.
occasioned no little comment at the council’s next meeting, chiefly on the
expense of retrofitting the five Norfolk Southern grade-crossings in
question to conform with the FAA’s quiet-zone rules. At the time Member
Emerson DeLaney, R-5th, estimated that cost at $250,000 per, or $1.25
million for the whole job, which according to the then most recent
information would entail the installation of double crossing arms and curbed
median islands: “inhibitors” to prevent motorists from going around the
Four months later,
in September, Member Jim Ton, R-1st, suggested that in fact the total cost
might be considerably less, but still considerably expensive: around
$750,000. In any case, Town Manager Bernie Doyle asked Mike Jabo of DLZ to
prepare ballpark numbers on what the town could expect to pay just for
And there the
matter has stood.
council meeting, at which Franzen appeared seeking an update on the issue.
“It’s just horrendous,” he said. “Our home is 2,000 feet from the tracks and
we don’t want to keep putting up with it. Anything we can do to help support
you, to get this done as soon as possible.”
“You’re not alone
in your goal,” Ton told Franzen. “It is a shared goal with us.” But, Ton
said, the council is still assessing Jabo’s report. “We’ve got some new
numbers. I don’t think we’re ready to talk about the numbers.”
In particular, Ton
noted, “We’ve discovered that some of the inhibitors may not be necessary
and others less expensive than we thought. But we were taken aback by the
unanticipated cost of engineering,” which he said Norfolk Southern would
perform itself but charge to the town.
“We are looking at
this seriously,” DeLaney emphasized. “But we’ll be lucky to see parts of it
in place by the end of next year.”
“I’ve got a
railroad behind my house,” DeLaney added. “I knew it was there when I moved
in. I don’t like it. But the town was built on railroads.”
strongly suggest to Franzen that, if he really wants to move the process
along, he should consider speaking to the Porter Town Council, inasmuch as
two of the grade-crossings in question--North 15th Street and North Jackson
Blvd.--are actually in Porter’s jurisdiction. “It would behoove you to make
contact with Porter,” DeLaney said.
The other three
grade-crossings, all in Chesterton: South Calumet Road, North Fourth Street,
and North Eighth Street.
Under FAA rules, in
properly designated and retrofitted quiet zones, train engineers are freed
from the requirement that they sound their horns at all grade-crossings.
Later in the
meeting, Ton reported on news from the Northwestern Indiana Regional
Planning Commission (NIRPC’s), of whose Executive Board he is the immediate
* Item 1: the
largest package of Transportation Improvement funds in NIRPC’s history has
been approved, coming in at $1.5 billion. That amount includes the Northern
Indiana Commuter Transportation District’s West Lake Extension and its
double-tracking project between Michigan City and Gary. “Projects this large
are complex in their timing and sequencing, involving everything from
air-quality conformity to environmental justice to public outreach, all with
critical deadlines to be met,” Ton said. “I want to relay my thanks to NIRPC
staff for working closely with NICTD to make sure there were no hiccups
moving through the process.”
* Item 2: President
Trump has signed Senate Bill 496, which officially killed the U.S.
Department of Transportation’s move to merge metropolitan planning
organizations and--in particular--to merge NIRPC with the Chicago
Metropolitan Agency for Planning. Ton argued last year that the proposed
merger would leave Northwest Indiana with the short end of the stick when it
came to federal transportation funding. “This was a major distraction that
is now behind us, and we can now focus on continuing the good cooperation
and coordination we already enjoy with our regional neighbors,” Ton said.