“We’ve got three crossings next to one another,” Mayor Tommy Allegood said. “Those train horns will blow continuously sometimes for 25 to 30 seconds.”
City leaders are looking to make Acworth the first city in the Southeast to have a completely “silent” community by making all five of the city’s railroad crossings quiet zones by CSX railroad, the Georgia Department of Transportation and the Federal Railway Administration. The five crossings are at School Street, Lemon Street, Smith Street, Acworth Industrial Avenue and New McEver Road.
“We would love it,” said Mike Fusco, co-owner and general manager of Fusco’s Via Roma, an Italian restaurant that faces the crossing on School Street.
“Any service on our front patio basically stops until the trains go by. It’s literally impossible to have a conversation out there when they are hitting the whistles,” Fusco said. “I’ve gone partially deaf by being out there when they go by. It’s such an idyllic little area with people walking the streets and enjoying everything, and all of a sudden the trains come blasting through. If it catches you by surprise, you’ll jump out of your skin. Just to add to the ambiance of downtown Acworth it would be great not to have that noise.”
Federal grant money available
But the quiet ambiance won’t come cheap.
Allegood said the venture has been in the works for the last seven years and will be paid for in part by a federal grant along with special purpose local option sales tax dollars. He estimated the conversion of each crossing will cost about $1.2 million.
“It will probably be another six or seven months before we know exactly what we have to do,” Allegood said.
Work on the crossings is anticipated to begin next summer and be complete in early 2015.
Craig Camuso, regional vice president of state government affairs for CSX Transportation, said the city has not yet filed a letter of intent for the quiet zones, so his company has yet to complete preliminary engineering work to determine a total cost to convert all five crossings.
“But they contacted us early, which is good, because we (CSX) want to be involved on the front end on this,” Camuso said.
In 1994, Congress mandated that the Federal Railroad Administration create legislation requiring the sounding of locomotive horns or whistles at all public highway-rail grade crossings.
Acworth would join several other cities in Cobb and the metro Atlanta area with silent crossings. The crossing at Brownsville Road in downtown Powder Springs will become silent within the next month.
The conversion of that crossing will cost no more than $474,000, according to City Manager Brad Hulsey, and will be paid by Cobb County from a portion of a $4 million legal settlement with Norfolk Southern Railways.
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.
Camuso said CSX has instituted 18 quiet zones in Georgia, with costs widely varying for each specific project. Upgrades typically include improved signalization, vehicular signs and crossing arms that extend over both lanes of traffic.
“The reasons the train blows the horn when they go through a crossing is for the protection of the community,” Camuso said. “Our No. 1 priority is safety.”
Allegood said he’s also looking forward to the safety enhancements that will come along with the new crossings.
“We’ll create a much, much safer environment because of all the upgrades we’re going to do,” he said.
To move the project forward, the city of Kennesaw will consider a memorandum of understanding with Acworth for the New McEver Road crossing, as it is located within Kennesaw city limits but part of Acworth’s plan. Kennesaw City Manager Steve Kennedy is recommending approval.