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Ask SAM: Any chance of railroad 'quiet zones'? Ask SAM: Any chance of railroad 'quiet zones'?

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01/14/2018 | 10:25 am

Q: The federal government allows a grade crossing on railroad tracks to be classified as a "quiet zone," meaning trains don't blow their warning horn because the crossing has adequate safety measures. With the ever-increasing number of apartment buildings near the Innovation Quarter, and potential increase of trains as Whitaker Park is redeveloped, has the city considered working with Norfolk Southern to implement one or more quiet zones?

J.K.

Answer: The city looked into that about five years ago, but found it too expensive.

"In 2013, we researched the request to develop a quiet zone downtown," said Toneq' McCullough, director of transportation for the city of Winston-Salem. "We did not proceed due to the cost to implement. The Downtown Winston-Salem Partnership did the same and did not proceed for the same reasons."

The total estimated construction cost at that time was $910,000 plus the administrative handling fee of $2,800, which Norfolk Southern charges to review a request to establish a quiet zone, according to the 2013 report, which went on to say that since the ranges provided by Norfolk Southern appeared to only cover construction, there would likely be engineering costs in addition to that $910,000. On top of the construction costs, Norfolk Southern stated that annual maintenance would increase from $4,000 to $10,000 if the quiet zone was implemented due to the additional infrastructure.

McCullough said that the cost for implementation has likely increased since that report, but the city would work with Norfolk Southern to get it updated and take another look at the idea.

According to Susan Terpay, a spokeswoman for Norfolk Southern, the Federal Railroad Administration allows local governments to create quiet zones "for groups of crossings located within at least a one-half-mile-long stretch provided they take measures to ensure safety in the absence of horns, such as closing individual crossings and/or installing additional safety devices such as automatic lights and gates."

Municipalities are required to fund these improvements, Terpay said, which can cost from $300,000 to $1 million per crossing. Norfolk Southern works with communities seeking to establish quiet zones, but only the FRA can grant a quiet zone.

You can find out more about quiet zones at www.nscorp.com/content/nscorp/en/about-ns/safety/quiet-zone-information.html.

While we were talking with Terpay, we asked about several other recent reader complaints about railroad crossings that were in rough shape in the area, including at Reynolds Boulevard and Indiana Avenue, and on Williston Road and Old Walkertown Road. She said that she would report those and see about repairs; if we hear back with a time frame on such repairs, we will run a follow-up.

Q: When is the next shredding event?

E.A.

Answer: The next ones we are aware of at this point won't be until this spring: April 21 at the Bermuda Run Town Hall, and May 19 at Homestead Hills. We will have more details on them and other events we hear about in March and April. The "season" for shredding events typically starts in late March and runs through summer, with a peak in late April after people have finished their yearly taxes.

Email: AskSAM@wsjournal.com Online: journalnow.com/asksamWrite: Ask SAM, P.O. Box 3159, Winston-Salem, NC 27102

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