Tuesday, April 23, 2013

‘Quiet Zone’ Project to Benefit UMC, Five Points

Seven Railroad Crossings to be Closed 

A deal is in the works to create railroad Quiet Zones in central El Paso that would eliminate or minimize train horns at specific rail crossings, and Union Pacific Railroad may help finance the effort with $1.155 million in funds.

In return, the City will permanently close seven railroad crossings to help qualify the crossings as Quiet Zones. An agenda item detailing the agreement will be reviewed at the April 23, 2013, City Council meeting.
Eleven crossings in the UMC area will be affected. Some will be closed.
The first of two areas that will benefit from the Quiet Zones is that around University Medical Center. A total of 11 railroad crossing are affected here. Seven crossings will receive improvements to help qualify them as Quiet Zones. They are at San Marcial, Grama, Copia, Concepcion, Chelsea, Glenwood, and Clark Streets. Three will be permanently closed, at Estrella, Cebada, and Boone Streets. Another crossing, at Cadwallader Dr. near Riverside High School, will also be closed.

Further west in the Five Points area, three crossings will be improved. They are at Rosewood, Maple, and Piedras Streets. The three that will be closed are at Birch, Cedar, and Elm Streets.

The Federal Railroad Administration established Quiet Zones within the last decade and has dictated requirements necessary to create them in communities. These “Safety Measures” include closing crossings where too many exist within a short stretch, and adding medians to other crossings to prevent vehicles from driving around active gates.

If a true Quiet Zone is established, train horns can be completely eliminated. If not all Safety Measures are met, the crossings can still be designated as Partial Quiet Zones where train horns are silent during nighttime hours.
A diagram from the agenda item shows how some intersections will be closed while other will be altered by adding medians.
In addition to making the aforementioned changes to crossings, the City will also change traffic flow from one-way to two-way traffic on both Grant Avenue (Rio Grande Avenue west of Cotton Street) and Arizona Avenue. Currently, Rio Grande traffic travels one way going east, and Arizona traffic travels only westward.

The agenda item also stipulates that the City will expedite the Carolina Bridge project which takes traffic over railroad tracks in El Paso’s Lower Valley. The dilapidated bridge has been in the City’s crosshairs for years but its replacement has been stalled.

No timeline is mentioned for any of the projects listed in the agenda item.