I have been talking to the City Manager, the Transportation Engineer, and several City Council Members about this:
The City has been unable to get grants to help defray the cost of quieting train intersections, and currently is not looking for more grants. The majority of City Council members sound committed to working on this with City dollars, however, and there will probably be funding for making some RR crossings ‘quiet-zone compliant’ at 1st and Emery, maybe 3rd and Atwood, Main Street, and possibly Coffman Street in next year’s budget. Some of this funding has been earmarked for the last several years, the rest has to be bargained for. After that, the plan is to build this zone northward with additional crossing improvements each year. Staff is considering setting aside $300,000 each year towards this, which will fund improvements at a rate of approximately one crossing a year.
Crossing improvements have to be made for every intersection for at least ½ mile of track before a quiet zone can be made (where the train doesn’t have to blow it’s horn), so improvements will have more immediate effect if they are done on a contiguous stretch of rail. The City is considering closing one or more quieter streets (i.e. 4th or 5th or 6th and Atwood) rather than putting improved crossings in everywhere, because it is much cheaper/will allow the quiet zone to expand faster.
This would require closing the pedestrian crossings at those intersections as well, however. This negatively impacts walkability downtown, emergency response times for fire, ambulance and police crews, and the convenience of getting around—but would make things quieter for more people sooner.
Interested individuals should consider 1) telling City council we want this in next year’s budget, 2) encourage them to fully fund this as rapidly as possible, and 3) consider the pros and cons of closing streets to get this done more quickly, in the historic eastside. Remember that future city councils may have other priorities, and funding this slowly may mean the whole project eventually gets derailed (pun intended). There are 6 intersections above 1st and Emery to 9th Avenue, then 5 more to the north end of town; perhaps we want to see improvements more quickly than over a dozen years, for the whole City.