Quiet zones

Published 10:48 pm Tuesday, October 13, 2009

Starting today, residents in the East Washington Street area will notice it has gotten a little quieter in their neighborhoods.

The city was notified recently the Federal Railway Administration has reinstated the quiet zones at five downtown rail crossings through June 2010. After that time, the city could be required to make improvements to keep the quiet zones.

“In order to keep it as a quiet zone after June, we would have to do a certain level of improvements,” Public Works director Eric Nielsen said. He noted the new policy does not affect the crossings at Olde Mill Creek and Shoulders Hill Road.

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Before the FRA took over the administration of quiet zones in 2005, localities across the country were allowed to establish their own quiet zones, Nielsen said. However, the FRA took over the administration of the zones after numerous accidents occurred nationwide.

After the takeover, localities had an opportunity to ask for a temporary extension of the quiet zones, but Suffolk missed a deadline to apply for the extension.

The city recently received a waiver of the filing deadline to continue the pre-rule quiet zones, so the crossings at Liberty Street, East Washington Street, Commerce Street, South Main Street and Saratoga Street will be quiet zones at least through June 2010. The city has installed signs at the crossings cautioning motorists to pay attention to the tracks.

Trains will be restricted from the routine sounding of horns when approaching those crossings. Trains still will be allowed to sound the horns if an accident is imminent.

Crossings in other areas of the city, such as Olde Mill Creek and Shoulders Hill Road, are not affected by the decision because they were not quiet zones before the federal takeover, Nielsen said. The city is working on establishing new quiet zones in those areas, which will require funding from the city.