RTSD releases preliminary costs of making train tracks along Highway 2 a quiet zone

Published: Sep. 7, 2021 at 6:49 PM CDT|Updated: Sep. 8, 2021 at 9:41 AM CDT
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LINCOLN, Neb. (KOLN) - For nine months, people in south Lincoln have had to get used to train horns blowing through their neighborhoods at least once per day.

They called for a quiet zone and on Tuesday, the initial cost estimates for what it would take to make that happen were released at the Railroad Transportation Safety District Meeting.

Mark Meisinger, an engineer with Felsburg, Holt and Ullevig told the board a conservative, preliminary estimate is about $1.4 million to make all of the changes needed to intersections along the track.

“We tried to find the least costly alternative we could,” Meisinger said.

The changes range in cost and complexity. From $900 to add signage at the crossing at 33rd Street to $550,000 to raise medians, add curb barriers and adjust pedestrian crossings at the 56th and Old Cheney Road crossing. Many of the crossings would also require expensive technology upgrades to the mechanisms that control the timing of when the crossing arms go down.

That cost estimate is likely about $1 million short, Meisinger said, because the RTSD board hasn’t been able to schedule a diagnostic meeting with stakeholders like BNSF, OPPD, NDOT, Lancaster County and City of Lincoln transportation and utilities yet. Though they have tried.

That meeting could result in the railroad companies calling for additional changes than the ones proposed in the meeting Tuesday.

“The railroads are all about safety,” Roger Figard, executive director of the RTSD said. “They philosophically don’t believe quiet zones improve safety by eliminating horns. They see that as one of the biggest deterrents to reminding people they’re there.

10/11 NOW asked Figard how the RTSD board can balance those safety concerns with the quality of life concerns the horns have presented for some people in Lincoln.

“It can be a quality of life issue but I do know we have individuals in this community who have health conditions, special needs people that noise can really disrupt their life and we don’t want to discount that,” Figard said.

Jane Raybould, a city councilor who sits on the RTSD board said she hears the trains from her neighborhood near S 20th and Highway 2 and so do her neighbors.

“They do cross frequently and at different times of the day and they’re quite loud; they do wake me up at night,” Raybould said.

But Raybould, and Figard said quality of life and safety aren’t the only factors.

“The RTSD only has so much money,” Figard said.

He said it will depend on what the board’s priorities are. Another big project RTSD is working on are extensive changes at the 33rd and Cornhusker railroad crossing. This project could cost at least $75 million and 50-70 trains a day go along this track, compared to the 40-60 that cross a month along Highway 2.

Another option to address these concerns and save money would be to implement the quiet zone in just part of the train’s route. During the quiet zone study, the engineers looked at how far the train’s horn travels and how many parcels of land are impacted at each crossing.

The crossings with the highest number of parcels impacted by the horn are the Southwood Drive crossing near 20th and Highway 2 impacting 427 parcels of land and the 27th and Highway 2 crossing impacting 427 parcels. The crossings that have the highest number of parcels closest to the tracks where the horn is the loudest are the crossing at 70th Street and the crossing at Yankee Hill.

The RTSD board hopes to have another update at their meeting on December 6, 2021.

The study looked at all of these intersections on the tracks along Highway 2. Most would need...
The study looked at all of these intersections on the tracks along Highway 2. Most would need some changes, the price tag is at least $1.4 million.(KOLN)

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