Wednesday, December 03, 2008

Another proposed quiet zone grade crossing in Somerset County, NJ

Following article is from the Courier news dated 11-18-08.

Engineering firm to study Neshanic Station rail crossing for establishing quiet zone

Staff Writer

Officials have decided to hire an engineering firm to study the creation of a quiet zone for trains in the Neshanic Station section of the township. Residents near the crossing at Lehigh Road have pushed for a muffling of horns that commercial trains sound as they pass through. Deputy Mayor Jim Leonard said the committee on Nov. 10 approved a recommendation from a subcommittee studying the issue to hire a consultant that would investigate the project and its costs.

At a cost of $5,000, the township is bringing Maser Consulting on board, according to Leonard, who noted that the planning, design and construction engineering firm was involved in the establishment of four quiet zones in nearby Hillsborough. "They looked at a bunch of different groups, but in the end, they decided it would be best to have someone who has done it in the past and can help us with the maze of bureaucracy and the identification of the costs," Leonard said.

Towns can establish quiet zones near train crossings by setting up additional safety features such as corral-like devices or raised medians that would replace the need for the horns. Leonard said the firm hopes to have a draft of its study completed by the end of the year, adding that the firm plans on making a presentation to residents during a Jan. 26 township committee meeting.

Resident Karina LaMalfa is part of a neighborhood committee that has advocated for the quiet zone's creation. She said they have been looking into the issue for more than two years. During the last five years, the frequency of passing trains has increased to as many as 20 to 28 per day, LaMalfa said. "Although some of us have grown very accustomed to it, there are people in the neighborhood for whom it's a huge problem," said LaMalfa. "We have older people who aren't sleeping as well as they could be, we have people who have illnesses who are supposed to be home recuperating and resting during the day, and they're just unable to."

LaMalfa said the crossing is also below safety standards, with emergency vehicles often having to avoid the crossing to avoid being stuck. Residents are also willing to chip in for the improvements, according to LaMalfa. "There will always be types of noise that will irritate or bother some residents in some areas. What we realized as a committee that we needed to do is that we needed to step up for a majority of the equipment," said LaMalfa, mentioning the signal improvements and signage. She said residents hope the township can fund needed roadway improvements.