(Photo by Scott Welton)
SIKESTON -- Sikeston City Council members are hoping residents will sound off on a proposed quiet zone.
"The city has the opportunity to establish what the railroad calls a quiet zone through town,"said John Chittenden of Waters Engineering. Chittenden presented information on what it would take to establish the quiet zone during the special meeting City Council meeting Monday morning.
In March, Chittenden and Steve Lee, the city's street superintendent, met with representatives from the Missouri Department of Transportation and the Burlington Northern Railroad.
"The purpose of that meeting was to give us basic information for the city to decide if they wanted to proceed with this project," Chittenden said. If the quiet zone is established, he said, trains will not have to blow their whistle as they approach road crossing in the city.
Various conditions must be met for a quiet zone to be established. Chittenden said they also received rough cost estimates for the various required components.
Included among the requirements are medians separating vehicle traffic lanes that are about 24 inches wide, 8 to 10-inches high and extending for 100 feet on either side of the crossing. The barriers would have an impact on some driveway and side streets, Chittenden said.
"There are seven impacted crossings," he said. "Some of the roadways will have to be widened, some of them won't."
Some of the crossings would have to be upgraded with crossing gates and signal lights while some of the existing gates and lights might have to be relocated for proper clearance. "Some of them are pretty close to meeting standards," Chittenden said.
If the city agrees to make the changes the railroad and MoDOT have agreed are necessary for a quiet zone, MoDOT would pay 60 percent and the railroad 20 percent leaving 20 percent of the cost for the city's match.
The biggest issue, however is that the railroad wants to close both Williams and Ruth streets, according to Chittenden. He said Burlington Northern is offering $35,000 toward the project if the city closes both of these streets.
Department of Public Safety Director Drew Juden said there are several public safety issues to consider.
For starters, fire hydrant access to some areas would be affected, Juden said. He recommended closing only William and leaving Ruth open because "we have very few routes in and out of those neighborhoods."
DPS would need to have a manual override for crossing gates, Juden said, as existing gates sometimes close for hours without a train being nearby. The medians, he explained, would prevent DPS vehicles from driving around the gates in these instances.
Juden said DPS would also need to have crossing sensors to alert dispatchers to which crossings are blocked so they would be able to route emergency vehicles.
Chittenden said as railroad officials would not tell him if they would increase train speeds or not if the quiet zone is established, he thinks speeds may be increased.
The local projected cost for the project if only William Street is closed would be about $180,000, according to Chittenden.
Council members agreed they would like to hear from the public to see how many people are interested in having the quiet zone established.
A public hearing on the proposed quiet zone is scheduled for the regular City Council meeting Monday.
In other business during the special meeting:
* Trey Hardy, community redevelopment coordinator, said they have finished DPS and code enforcement paperwork on the 106 structures targeted for demolition after being identified as health and safety hazards.
Hardy said they are now sending letters to owners and will soon be seeking demolition bids on groups of 40 houses.
Councilman Mike Bohannon said he thinks the bankruptcy of Washington Mutual may have a significant effect as that company owns a number of the condemned properties.
* The Cotton Carnival Parade went very well, according to Juden. He said the parade finished a bit sooner than usual.
While parade participants were not allowed to throw or toss candy, "they passed out a lot of candy," Councilman Jim Terrell said.
City officials noted parade watchers seemed to have used trash barrels more and left considerably less trash along the parade route.
"We are quite proud of our citizens," said Sue Rogers, council member.
Juden said trash along the parade route was picked up by the Scott County Sheriff Department's county jail inmates in just a couple of hours.