Government

Work to start soon on railroad crossing arms for 'quiet zone'

Newstrack: Downtown Cedar Rapids may hear fewer train whistles after devices installed

(File photo, November 2017) Work continues on the two-way conversion of Second Avenue SE in downtown Cedar Rapids. The city is moving to two-way traffic on downtown avenues and will begin work soon on installing drop-down crossing arms at the avenues that cross the Union Pacific tracks. The work will increase safety and also is required before the city can apply for a “quiet zone” — without train whistles — in the downtown. (Stephen Mally/The Gazette)
(File photo, November 2017) Work continues on the two-way conversion of Second Avenue SE in downtown Cedar Rapids. The city is moving to two-way traffic on downtown avenues and will begin work soon on installing drop-down crossing arms at the avenues that cross the Union Pacific tracks. The work will increase safety and also is required before the city can apply for a “quiet zone” — without train whistles — in the downtown. (Stephen Mally/The Gazette)

Cedar Rapids has been on a quest for several years for a railroad “quiet zone” in its downtown. The half-mile quiet zone would reduce — although not eliminate — the blaring train whistles echoing through the downtown during the day and night.

Locomotive engineers are required to warn motorists of an approaching train by sounding a train whistle at least 15 seconds before they reach public grade crossings.

Reducing the train whistles — creating a “quiet zone” — requires adding drop-down railroad crossing arms on streets that cross the railroad tracks.

The plan is to put the crossing arm gates along the Union Pacific Railroad corridor — Fourth Street SE — at First, Second, Third, Fourth and Fifth avenues SE in the heart of downtown.

Medians also will be built at some of the intersections.

What’s happened since:

Cedar Rapids and Union Pacific officials have signed agreements for construction work at Second, Fourth and Fifth avenues, and they anticipate signing agreements for the crossings at Third Avenue Avenue.

Union Pacific crews will handle the construction, and Cedar Rapids will pay the costs.

Construction of gates and medians at Second, Fourth and Fifth avenues is expected to begin this spring, said Matt Myers, a Cedar Rapids traffic engineer involved in the project.

“They are still waiting on the delivery of materials,” Myers said.

Kristen South, a spokesperson for Union Pacific, said work should occur in May. 

Crews are expected to take 30 days to complete work at each crossing. The crossing arms would be activated when work is finished, Myers said.

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Third Avenue SE has a loading zone for the Cedar Rapids Museum of Art near the tracks, requiring a slightly different design. No median will be included, and four gates will swing down to control access when trains are passing through. Construction is expected this summer, Myers said.

More planning work still is needed on the First Avenue crossing, including realigning the bike trail. That timetable is up in the air, but is pegged for sometime in 2018 or 2019 on the city’s website.

The city would apply for the quiet zone after the safety improvements are installed, and it would likely be a year from when the work is finished before the quiet zone would be active, Myers said.

Interest in expanding the quiet zone into the New Bohemia area continues, Myers said. A 2019 project calls for railroad crossing arms at the tracks near 12th Avenue and Sixth Street SE.

The hope is eventually that also will be part of a quiet zone, but more study is needed of the costs for crossings between Fifth and 12th Avenues, Myers said.

The railroad crossing arms are critical to the one-way to two-way downtown conversion initiative. Conversions are slated to occur on the final unconverted segments of Second Avenue SE and SW and Fourth Avenue SE this year, and on the remaining segments of Third Avenue SE in 2019.

More information about the two-way conversion timeline is available online at Cedar-Rapids.org by searching “two-way conversions.”

 

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