Sunday, November 09, 2008

Hillsborough Railroad Quite Zones - status update

Following article is from the Courier News dated Sunday, 11-2-08.

Horn blasts to be eliminated at 2 Hillsborough rail crossings

November 2, 2008

HILLSBOROUGH —Horn blasts at two township railroad intersections are expected to be eliminated effective Nov. 18, after the Norfolk Southern Rail Line finishes making required electronic safety improvements.

Municipal officials have implemented quiet zones — alternatives to horn blasts — at the Beekman Lane and Auten Road rail crossings.

The township committee approved contracts in March to build safety medians at four rail crossings and install an electronic backup safety improvement at three of them.

The contracts provided for the construction of 100-foot medians on either side of three rail crossings at Beekman Lane, Auten and Roycefield roads — including road stripping and warning signage — for $191,188. The railroad safety improvements were installed at each of the crossings by Norfolk Southern, for $141,000, said Clerk and Business Administrator Kevin Davis.

Township officials have said the majority of the funding for the quiet zone project comes from a $250,000 developer's contribution from Beazer Homes, the developer of the Pleasantview Estates project, and $100,000 in budgeted funds. The state Department of Transportation has approved the plans.

Previously, train operators approaching a crossing sounded a horn four times. In Hillsborough, the horn blasts resulted in 16 horn blasts for the four rail crossings that traverse the township: Beekman Lane, Auten, Valley and Roycefield roads. The new quiet zones will cut those horn blasts by half, with eight horn blasts in total (four blasts each) at the Valley and Roycefield roads crossings, Davis said.

Construction began at Auten Road, Beekman Lane and the Roycefield Road railroad grade crossings in July and ended in September. The construction was done after township officials got complaints from homeowners who were hearing horn blasts during the very early morning, and all along the nine-mile length of the Norfolk Southern line.

"The township has complied with the federal quiet zone regulations and locomotive engineers will begin honoring the quiet zones in Hillsborough on or about Nov. 18," said William Barringer, director of grade crossing safety for the Norfolk Southern Corporation. "Norfolk Southern appreciates the hard work of everyone involved in the process required by the federal regulations."

The next step is for the township to seek an agreement with Norfolk Southern for a wayside horn — where a horn is placed at the intersection of a crossing and would be directed at cars — at the Valley Road railroad crossing. Quiet zone safety improvements also have been completed at the Roycefield Road rail crossing. Improvements there must be done at the Valley Road crossing before the horn blasts can be eliminated at the Roycefield Road crossing, Davis said.

Maurice Rached of Maser Consulting, a township traffic and quiet zone engineer, called the rail crossings "safer" with these improvements.