City mulls railroad quiet zones

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(Photo by MARY MALONE) The City Council is looking into possible railroad quiet zones in Sandpoint.

SANDPOINT — There are more than 750,000 railroad quiet zones in the United States, and while Sandpoint officials discussed the possibility of establishing quiet zones a few years ago, it was nixed due to the cost.

Last week, Councilman Bob Camp brought the topic back to council, asking them to again look into quiet zones at the crossings on North Boyer and North Division avenues.

“Back then, if city staff had looked into this, I think we would have had a quiet zone out there ...” Camp said. “I think it is a quality of life issue for the residents of the north part of town.”

Originally, the city looked at four crossings. The Union Pacific crossings at Boyer and Division, a Burlington Northern Santa Fe crossing at Boyer, and another crossing at Gooby and Great Northern roads.

Ryan Luttmann, the city’s Public Works director, said if the city were to consider budgeting for the project, it could cost around $300,000 for each of the UP crossings, $300,000-$350,000 for the BNSF Railway crossing on Boyer Avenue crossing, and 50,000-$100,000 for the Gooby Road crossing — about $1 million to quiet the crossings.

Luttmann said when the Sandpoint crossings were looked at in the past, they were lacking the equipment designed to detect a train coming. The required equipment would detect the speed and the arrival time of a train and operate the gates.

Camp said most of the community complaints come from the three Boyer and Division crossings, suggesting the city concentrate on those crossings.

There are 126 units at the Milltown Apartments near the Boyer crossings, Camp said, and 36 of them are rented by senior citizens.

“As a senior citizen, and someone who has been through health problems, when you get woken up in the middle of the night, it’s really hard to go back to sleep,” Camp said.

In speaking with a representative from the Federal Railroad Administration, Camp said the first step is to form a diagnostic team.

There is a list of requirements the team looks at to determine whether the crossings meet the criteria for establishing quiet zones.

Camp said he believes the BNSF crossing on Boyer, in particular, could meet this criteria. He said the city of East Hope was recently approved by the FRA for a quiet zone, costing them $11,000 and took about two years.

“If there’s a will there’s a way, and if there is a will to make a better quality of life for the residents in north Sandpoint, then I think it should happen,” Camp said.

“I think we should go forward with it and at least explore the possibilities and form this diagnostic team.”

Mary Malone can be reached by email at mmalone@bonnercountydailybee.com and follow her on Twitter @MaryDailyBee.

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