Quiet crossings: Mayor eyes bond funding for silent crossings
by Jon Gillooly
July 10, 2013 12:45 AM | 5283 views | 19 19 comments | 52 52 recommendations | email to a friend | print
Marietta 20/20 Vision Committee Vice Chairman Carey Cox and downtown business owner and resident James Eubanks have presented a proposal to the City Council asking for silent railroad crossings, similar to what Acworth is doing, which may be paid for by the proposed $68 million redevelopment bond.<br>Staff/Kelly J. Huff
Marietta 20/20 Vision Committee Vice Chairman Carey Cox and downtown business owner and resident James Eubanks have presented a proposal to the City Council asking for silent railroad crossings, similar to what Acworth is doing, which may be paid for by the proposed $68 million redevelopment bond.
Staff/Kelly J. Huff
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MARIETTA — Mayor Steve Tumlin wants to use several million of a proposed $68 million redevelopment bond to spend on silent railroad crossings in the downtown.

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.

Comments
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I need the signal
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August 20, 2013
Because we have grade crossings and underpasses in the City of Marietta, the train horns do not simply announce "get off the tracks or die."

In Marietta the train horns make a very important announcement: "Hey you, in your car a few blocks away on your way toward crossing the tracks, you should go under the tracks on the north or south loop or head out Kennesaw Ave to pass under the tracks at Tower if you're headed that way, because I, a talking train that says a lot with a language consisting only of horn toots, am in the process of blocking five of your eight railroad crossing options."

If we silence that traffic routing announcement, we will sit in gridlock on Whitlock, Crescent, Mill St, Lemon Polk St, and Kennesaw Ave, dumbstruck, wondering "WHERE did all this traffic come from?"

If we silence the train announcements, for a while traffic on the Square will be paralyzed every time a train comes through since nobody will know to go around to the loop to pass under the tracks.

Eventually people will realize they should just never go to any of the at-grade crossings, ever, because they will have no idea whether they will get stuck waiting on a train.

Maybe we will like not hearing the train on occasions that we don't want to hear the train horn, MAYBE. That appreciation of the relative silence will last a few weeks until we forget all about it.

However, I guarantee we won't like it when we would have wanted to hear the train horn. We will forever have indecision as our copilot every time we drive toward the tracks. Should I roll the dice and cross at grade? Or is a train on its way to block the crossing? Who knows!!

Every driver in our city will have that indecision for as long as we keep the silent crossings. Ultimately that indecision will win the day and the trains will again toot as they pass through the city. All that will remain of the silent crossings will be extra crossing equipment to maintain forever (do you think CSX will let us remove it after they convince us to pay for it? ain't NO way!)

Brew HA HA
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July 11, 2013
We better make sure the "Franklin Bond" is worded so it can only be spent on the Franklin Road area. You can see the politicians trying to dip into it before they even have it, and use it where it was not designed to be used.

Since when has the Marietta Square had problems with occupancy? People that don't like the trains can move somewhere else. The bond is expected to produce 33 extra million. That is great. The money will be needed to buy the extended stay hotels on and around Franklin and Delk.

Nothing will be accomplished if these problem areas, which are much worse than the apartments, are not purchased. The number of school buses that load up at the hotels is absurd. The response by police and fire is more concentrated at these locations.

Another issue is the roadways between Cobb Parkway and Franklin. The roads will have to pass through Cobb County Jurisdiction. City cannot condemn and must negotiate which will cost more money than is necessary to build two roads that no one needs to start with.

Another issue is why the City is concerned about connecting two colleges that have nothing in common? Overall this attitude of if we buy it they will come has not worked for the City. There is already a lot of City owned vacant land. Has the City not learned you can not buy part of a blighted area? There are many buildings in Marietta in good shape and in good areas, as well as Cobb County, that are sitting vacant. Attempting to drive infrastructure is not government’s role. If the need is there the private sector will step up and do it.

Readmopaper
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July 11, 2013
How 'bout putting speed humps on the railroad tracks. That would irritate the train drivers and they would stop coming through here and the local children could play on the tracks.

See how simple these things are when you apply a little imagination?
Not 1848 anymore
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July 11, 2013
WOW! That's a typical OM solution for you. Just keep everything the way it's been since 1848... I guess we'll just sit and watch other Metro areas like Vinings, Acworth, etc, improve and progress into turning their areas into the more desirable places to live and work. Go May-retta!
BYE BYE TRAIN CREWS
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July 11, 2013
How the scam works.

1. Feds trump state train horn laws.

2. Train horns whistle whip people into submission.

3. Railroad comes in and makes a fortune in overcharges and stolen signal equipment (OURS).

4.Somebody (not railroads) has to pay for ridiculous priced liability insurance so railroad is hold harmless.

5.The crossings for GPS crew-less trains hid behind the curtains not a problem for railroads.

6. Warren Buffett starts his 41st vault of silver.

http://www.house.gov/transportation/rail/07-21-05/pickett.pdf Head of railroad signal union to congress

...The only modification required is the installation of two additionalgate mechanisms and a timing device that would allow vehicles to exit the crossing before lowering the gates across the traffic exit lanes....

http://ecfr.gpoaccess.gov/cgi/t/text/text-idx?c=ecfr&rgn=div5&view=text&node=23:1.0.1.7.27&idno=23#23:1.0.1.7.27.2.1.6

(3) The State and FHWA shall be afforded a reasonable opportunity to inspect materials recovered by the railroad prior to disposal by sale or scrap. This requirement will be satisfied by the railroad giving written notice, or oral notice with prompt written confirmation, to the State of the time and place where the materials will be available for inspection. The giving of notice is the responsibility of the railroad, and it may be held accountable for full value of materials disposed of without notice.
Mike In Smyrna
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July 10, 2013
It is a good idea – a bad location. There are too many vehicles and pedestrian in the immediate vicinity. It will be all fun and games until a child or elderly person ventures in front of a train.
no pay, you pay
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July 10, 2013
The railroad was here in 1848. It has not been "sneaked in" recently. It was here long before anyone complaing bought a home, opened a business, bought downtown business property. We all have known it was there and with the train horns.

Why should any property owner on Sandy Plains Road, Cobb Parkway, Lee's Crossing, Hardage Farm,etc. pay for this? I have a unique solution: If it bothers you, you pay for this multi-million dollar "solution." Let James Eubanks, Philip Goldstein, the downtown merchants all tax themselves for themselves.
Bill N
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July 10, 2013
As I understand it, the bond issue is a city of Marietta proposal, so property owners on Sandy Plains Road or Hardage Farm (or most of Cobb Parkway; that's too general a designation) have nothing to do with it. I think Lee's Crossing is inside city limits, though.

Your broader point is worth considering. Should city council view the benefit as mainly for downtown business area or the broader benefit of anyone who lives in, visits or passes through Marietta? I'd lean toward the latter, but I can respect the opposite view as well.
Just my opinion...
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July 10, 2013
100% agree!!!
donna kemp
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July 10, 2013
Of course, in 1848 we did not have a double track or the sheer volume of trains moving through the City.

This is a City bond, so there are no County tax dollars at work. The bond issue will be on the November ballot, as I understand it, so the citizens of Marietta will vote on the need for this.

As for the business owners, they contribute to the tax base as well as the citizens who live in the area. And as a member of one of the Square Churches, I can tell you there are plenty of Sunday's when we pause for the trains.
Be Careful
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July 10, 2013
"The train horn is a dominating negative feature.."???

Really??

Well, trains built this area. Atlanta started as a railroad terminal, not a city. Every town in Cobb County sprang up around the railroad. The railroad is the backbone of this areas history.

The train horns are the dominating CHARM of this area. Every time I hear a train horn, or get stopped at a crossing, it reminds me of the rich history of our area.

I have dined many times outside on the square. When a horn sounds, you just stop talking for 15 seconds. Is that really ruining your life to have to be quiet for a few moments???
Church St. .business
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July 10, 2013
You are so right! The train horns are such a charming part of our city. I had a business on Church St. for many years and the horns were no bother at all. Our out of town customers often commented on how lovely and quaint Marietta was-part of that being the trains and horns that other towns may not have. Let's not waste money on getting rid of a small part of our history!
silence the alarm?
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July 10, 2013
We are going to keep the problem but silence its alarm? Now THAT is thinkin' Southern style!

We do have some silent crossings here in Marietta. The train horn does not toot at the South Loop, the North Loop, Tower Rd, or Old 41, and there is a reason the train horn does not toot: The idiots drivings cars everywere are not allowed onto the tracks!

Perhaps instead of silencing the train horn, we should remove people's ability to put their cars into situations where train companies feel the need to honk? Hey now there's an idea.

Another idea is that all these through trains carrying their fracking oil and gas and other explosives should perhaps NOT be passing through the center of all our cities here in Metro Atlanta?

Why doesn't Georgia build a Train-285 for through-traffic trains to go AROUND? Hey, then we could put some commuter trains on the existing tracks that pass through the heart of all our towns.

Young professionals would WANT to live here. The ones born and bred here might not leave for the NE or out West or generally anywhere other than the stupid backward "drive everywhere" city that IS most definitely their's mom's Cadillac.

Wouldn't that be neat for the private property owners within walking distance of a commuter train that goes to the Vinings, Cumberland, Galleria and downtown Atlanta business districts unlike this CCT bus system that only goes to malls?

Property values would go through the roof. Business might move into Goldstein's 7 story building, and we might even WANT him to have a 7 story building. Meeting Park could get built and bought, along with our other city owned PVC farms and slums.

Nah let's just drive everywhere, make the train horn shut up, keep our PVC farms, and keep saying "it will all work out someday after that DARN Obama is gone and things go back the way they used to be." WHaaaaaaat e.v.e.r. grandpa.
Just Wait
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July 10, 2013
And just where do you think all the money to accomplish your grand plan will come from? Judging by your rant, you are also probably one of those folks that complains about government waste and too high taxes. I know its rained a lot lately, but it hasn't been money falling from the sky. It's easy to come up with ideas to fix problems, but not so easy to find ways to pay for them.
Bill N
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July 10, 2013
How's that high school term paper coming? I'd suggest you go a little easier on the Red Bull, however.

Why do you hate drivers so much? Or do you not need a car because you just sit in your basement playing video games?
mtc900
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July 10, 2013
Well, dang. Trying to remove a signature of small towns - train horns. I know they can be loud but that's part of small town America. It's a sad day...
move on
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July 11, 2013
I guess you felt the same when they removed the outhouses.
Ramona Mays
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July 11, 2013
Many of us grew up in small towns and loved listening to the trains. Children are fascinated by them. This is part of the charm of the town.

FROM TEXAS
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July 10, 2013
Yea can’t stand those loud whistles and horns making all that noise to bad those whistles come through town? Gee if there hadn’t been whistles horns there would be a Marietta Square no Underground Atlanta. Railroad and bank money built this whole Metro Atlanta area. Every time you hear the whistles that are money and jobs you probably hate the noise form C/130J’s and F/22 that were built right here in Marietta; Lockheed is pumping real money into the economy every time you hear that noise pollution!! Now some Yup is going to get run over listing to his IPod than the city can be sued plenty of lawyers on the square.
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