City wants to close rail crossing
By ANDREW MCGINN
The city’s plan to create a train horn quiet zone between Grimmell Road and Cedar Street has officially left the station.
After conducting a quiet zone study more than five years ago, the city is now taking the steps needed to close a first railroad crossing at North Pinet Street.
A public hearing on the city’s proposal to vacate and close the North Pinet crossing will be held at 5:30 p.m. Tuesday during the regular city council meeting.
Residents will be given time to speak for or against the proposal.
Of the six railroad crossings in Jefferson — including the new Elm Street overpass — Pinet has the lowest average number of daily crossings “by quite a bit,” said Mike Palmer, city administrator.
On average, the Pinet crossing gets 258 crossings per day, Palmer said, compared with 363 for Maple Street, 523 for Wilson Avenue, 826 for Grimmell Road and 910 for Cedar Street.
The overpass gets an average of 6,256 crossings per day, Palmer said.
“There’s no real rush to close them all at once,” he said.
Closing the Pinet crossing will be more or less an experiment.
“Let’s try one and see what the impact is,” Palmer said.
“People really won’t notice it,” he added.
Like the act of crossing the tracks itself, the city will likely have to proceed with caution when it comes to deciding the fate of any other crossings.
“It’s a pretty sensitive subject,” Palmer confessed.
Most notably, McAtee Tire is located at the Maple Street crossing.
“We have to look at them all,” Palmer said.
The only cost for the city associated with closing a railroad crossing is for permanent barricades — and that would be offset by the railroad.
Union Pacific will actually pay the city $16,500 to close the Pinet crossing, Palmer said, with the Iowa Department of Transportation giving an additional $7,500.
“It’s a liability issue for the railroad,” Palmer said. “They’re ridding themselves of a liability.
“If the railroad had its way, we’d close them all at once.”
But, the eventual goal of the city council, according to Palmer, is to create a train horn quiet zone — and one way to do that is to reduce the number of public grade crossings.
Federal regulations require locomotives to sound horns before entering all crossings.
Palmer views a quiet zone as a potential economic development tool.
“People might be a little more inclined to build businesses and homes closer to the tracks with a quiet zone,” he said.
Like the new overpass, “It’s a quality of life thing,” he added.