Quiet train zone study awaiting funds

Efforts by some San Marco residents to create a Quiet Zone in their neighborhood are progressing, albeit slowly. Lilla Ross, who has lived in San Marco for 40 years, is leading the charge to create a Quiet Zone that will eliminate the need for train engineers to blow horns as they approach the 10 train crossings between the trestle bridge across the St. Johns River to Emerson Street.

Ross created a website this past April to notify other San Marco residents who are interested in quieting the train horns, and met in June with Bill Joyce, operations director for the City of Jacksonville’s Department of Public Works.

“Joyce said that the next step is an engineering study that will determine what needs to be done and how much it will cost,” Ross said.

Quiet zones are regulated by the Federal Railroad Administration. Because the absence of routine horn sounding increases the risk of a crossing collision, a public authority desiring to establish a quiet zone is required to equip each public highway-rail crossing within the zone with active warning devices, such as flashing lights, gates, constant warning time devices and power out indicators. Supplemental safety measures including medians or channelization devices, one-way streets with gates, four quadrant gate systems, and temporary or permanent crossing closures reduce risks and enhance safety, according to the Federal Railroad Administration (FRA).

According to the FRA’s “Guide to the Quiet Zone Establishment Process,” the prohibited use of train horns at quiet zones only applies to trains approaching and entering crossings. It does not include train horn use within passenger stations or rail yards, and train horns may still be sounded in emergency situations or to comply with other railroad or FRA rules even within a quiet zone. Quiet zone regulations also do not eliminate the use of locomotive bells at crossings.

“This Quiet Zone project is quite large and addresses train crossings from San Marco to Emerson Street,” Joyce said. “The City’s current proposed CIP [Capital Improvement Plan] includes $250,000 in matching funds to be applied to this effort.”

The crossings that are included in the San Marco Quiet Zone proposal are Prudential Drive (at Baptist Health), San Marco Boulevard, Nira Street, Naldo Avenue, Hendricks Avenue, Atlantic Boulevard, River Oaks Road, St. Augustine Road, Emerson Street and Reba Avenue (south of Walmart). The study will identify each crossing and determine what countermeasures are needed to establish a quiet zone. 

“A study would not be able to be commissioned until the proposed CIP is adopted on Oct. 1, 2018 as part of the City’s FY18-19 budget,” Joyce said. “At this point I would not be able to anticipate a timeframe or cost.”

The FRA does not provide funding for establishing quiet zones. Public authorities that want to establish quiet zones must be prepared to identify sources for the cost to install any safety measures needed. Costs can vary from $30,000 per crossing to more than $1 million depending on the number of crossings and the types of safety improvements required.

In the meantime, Ross is forming a committee to strategize about next steps. Residents who would like to be a part of the Quiet Zone initiative may email her at [email protected] to join the committee and add their names to the more than 200 people who have signed the online petition in favor of a San Marco Quiet Zone at www.ipetitions.com/petition/san-marco-quiet-zone.

By Karen J. Rieley
Resident Community News

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