To make all seven railroad crossing in the city quiet zones would cost about $3.4 million, city manager Bill Bruton said.
Tumlin has asked city attorney Doug Haynie to give him a legal opinion on whether using bond money is possible at tonight’s City Council meeting. Voters would have to first approve the bond on Nov. 5 however.
“The timing is good,” Tumlin said. “You’ve got a group of citizens who have looked at the economic impact that this improvement would do and that’s why it just played well into considering it. I can’t speak for anybody else, but $3.5 million — we’re still going up $27 million on the Franklin Road bond from where we were a few weeks ago, so I’m happy.”
Locomotive engineers begin to sound train horns at least 15 seconds in advance of all public grade crossings, according to the Federal Railroad Administration.
Municipalities may stop the train horn noise by creating quiet zones where railroads are directed to cease the routine sounding of horns when approaching public highway-rail grade crossings. To establish a quiet zone, a municipality must take steps to mitigate the increased risk caused by the absence of a horn.
“The cost in making quiet zones is essentially in rebuilding the gates and the railroad signals at each location,” city engineer Jim Wilgus said.
During Monday’s City Council work session, members of the city’s Vision 20/20 Committee asked the council to turn five of the seven railroad crossings in the city into quiet zones.
In July 2012, at the request of Tumlin, the City Council formed a citizens committee charged with examining issues impacting downtown Marietta. The 14-member group, chaired by Kee Carlisle, is the Vision 20/20 Committee.
The seven crossings in the city are West Atlanta Street, Waverly Way, Whitlock Avenue, Mill Street, Polk Street, Kennesaw Avenue and Marble Mill Road.
Carlisle said his group wants quiet zones at all the crossings except West Atlanta Street and Marble Mill Road.
In arguing for the five quiet zones, committee member James Eubanks, whose family is a large downtown property owner, said, “Research has shown that crossings that have gone quiet since 2005 when the FRA came out with these rules are safer.”
There are simply fewer accidents, he said.
“You are not going to stop a bozo who parks a car on the tracks, and you’re not going to stop someone who’s trying to commit suicide, but statistically for normal traffic they are safe,” he said.
Councilman Johnny Sinclair said he believed many residents would love having the quiet zones. Sinclair also thought it was something the city would do eventually anyway.
“I can’t think of a singular action by the city that would make it a more pleasant place to be,” Eubanks said. “Downtown is one of the defining characteristics of the city of Marietta. It makes sense to me.”
Following his comments, Tumlin proposed using several million from the proposed $68 million bond.
Committee member Carey Cox, a loan officer with Mortgage South Lenders, cited the positive impact quiet zones would have on downtown businesses, residences and churches.
“If you have dined outside, attended a concert outside or gone to for example the Presbyterian Church, (the train horn) is a dominating negative feature of the Square, and the impact of it going away would be much more positive than people realize,” Cox said.
The city of Acworth is also examining making its railroad crossings quiet zones. Acworth has five crossings. Mayor Tommy Allegood has estimated the conversion of each crossing will cost about $1.2 million.
Acworth and Marietta would join several other cities in Cobb and the metro Atlanta area with silent crossings, including the crossing at Brownsville Road in downtown Powder Springs which is in the process of becoming a quiet zone. In unincorporated Cobb, there are quiet zones in Vinings on Paces Ferry Road and Woodland Brook Drive, one on Paradise Shoals Road in Smyrna and two in north Cobb on Mossy Rock Road and Stanley Road.