Looking for a quiet solution

Published 9:36 pm Tuesday, July 5, 2011

In a city that originally reached prominence because of the railway lines that crisscross the countryside, it is inevitable that there will be some level of conflict between the people who live and work in Suffolk and the trains that travel along the city’s various rail routes.

The level of enrichment that Suffolk enjoys as a byproduct of the trains means that folks generally have to learn to deal with the frustrations. Nobody’s going to be removing the train tracks in Suffolk anytime soon. In fact, developing transportation realities being what they are, train traffic through the city is only expected to increase in the years to come.

Still, there are times when those developing realities call for city officials and railway company executives to make some concessions. The Pinner Street and Broad Street overpasses are two examples of such concessions having been made in the past.

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Today, a group of homeowners in Olde Mill Creek are looking for a concession of a far less expensive variety: They want a railroad crossing next to their neighborhood to be declared a quiet zone, meaning that train operators would not be allowed to blow the train whistle at the crossing except in the case of an emergency.

When many of those families moved to the subdivision, there was little problem with the crossing, since the line was used only as a spur for a nearby chemical plant. In 2006, however, the tracks were converted to main-line use, and the frequency of usage dramatically increased, along with the length of the trains and the size of the cars.

Clearly, the people who moved to the subdivision bear some responsibility for their decision to do so. They could not be supported in any bid to have the tracks shut down or to impinge on their use in any material way. But they’re not asking for such measures. They seek only to have the whistles quieted as the trains pass their homes in the wee hours of the morning.

Depending on who is doing the estimating, making the Olde Mill Creek crossing safe for a quiet zone would cost between $50,000 and $200,000. Considering the benefit that each of the parties would receive from the change, it seems reasonable that they all should share in the cost.

Homeowners there should be willing to put money into a special fund for the project — either through a special taxation district or by some other means. The city should chip in through its general fund in the name of neighborhood improvement and safety. And the railroad should be pressured to ante up in the name of safety and community relations.

This conflict can be resolved simply and at minimal cost, and all of the parties involved should work to get it resolved quickly