Proposed 2022 Longmont budget includes several railroad crossing 'quiet zones'

·4 min read

Sep. 19—Longmont may proceed next year with making changes to as many as seven BNSF Railway crossings to establish "quiet zones" to prevent trains from having to blare their horns when they approach and pass through those Longmont neighborhoods.

According to a staff memo for Tuesday night's City Council resumption of discussions of the staff's budget recommendations, next year's work could include the BNSF crossings at Third Avenue, Fourth Avenue, Sixth Avenue, Longs Peak Avenue, Ninth Avenue, 17th Avenue and 21st Avenue.

Longmont city staff's proposed 2022 budget includes $2.25 million for constructing supplemental safety measures required to implement quiet zones at those seven crossings along the BNSF Railway main line through the city. That's in addition to $2.17 million that's in this year's adopted city budget for quiet zones, all or part of which will be carried over into 2022 if not spent during the current 2021 budget year.

That memo did not detail what the projects would entail at each of those seven crossings. However, staff has told council in the past that improvements that must be made to establish quiet zones — removing those crossings from Federal Railroad Administration requirement that locomotive horns be sounded in advance of all public roadway rail crossings for 15 to 20 seconds, with a minimal volume level of 96 decibels and a maximum of 110 decibels.

Longmont staff has said in the past that the improvements that must be made to establish quiet zones often include improved crossing arms; curbs and medians to prevent vehicles from going around gates; improved communications circuitry between the tracks, the train and the crossing arms; and, in some cases, localized "wayside" horns at the crossings.

In recent meetings, Councilman Tim Waters and Councilwoman Susie Hidalgo-Fahring have asked staff to provide status reports about what are now expected to be the schedules for creating the quiet zones that have been in city plans for several years. The staff response was part of a larger memo highlighting a variety of issues that may be discussed Tuesday night when the staff and council resume discussions of the overall $389.55 million overall city budget staff has recommended for 2022.

The work wouldn't end in 2022. The staff report for Tuesday night's discussion of the 2022 budget, and the staff's proposed long-range capital improvements program, state that $2.17 million may be spent in 2023 to create quiet zones at the BNSF crossings on Main Street, Coffman Street, Terry Street and Mountain View Avenue, and $1.8 million in 2024 at the crossings on Colo. 66, Sunset Street. Hover Street and Fifth Avenue.

"As it stands now, we are doing everything we can to construct improvements" to those crossings in 2022, 2023 and 2024, staff said in its memo for Tuesday night's meeting. Staff said it "continues to work with BNSF in order to execute construction and maintenance agreements for each crossing improvement. This step has taken longer than initially anticipated and it has impacted the overall project schedule."

Staff noted that "BNSF owns the tracks and much of the work is dependent on BNSF."

There are other issues that may impact the anticipated construction schedule, staff said.

For example, Longmont is designing the Coffman Street corridor between First and Ninth avenues as a "Busway," bus transit facility, work that would impact the design of any Coffman Street rail crossing changes.Staff us also currently designing intersection improvements at Ken Pratt Boulevard and Sunset Street that would impact the rail crossing at Sunset.

Staff said the city plan still includes the closing of Fifth Avenue where BNSF crosses it and may also include closing Terry Street where the tracks cross it, in order to get BNSF support for creating a new at-grade crossing at Boston Avenue.

"We are currently seeing long lead times on many construction projects that has the potential to impact material availability for this project. We do not yet know if this is a short term supply issue, or if it will continue for a prolonged timeframe," staff wrote council members

Transportation Engineering Administrator Tyler Stamey said in a Friday email that staff still expects the total cost of quiet-zones projects in Longmont to exceed $8 million once it's all completed.

In 2019, city staff projected an overall $8.43 million in costs for the quiet zone work, including an estimated $7.92 million in construction costs, $200,000 for BNSF Railway engineering reviews, and $316,000 in construction management costs. Last year, however, Longmont was awarded a $4 million federal grant to help cover those expenses.

If you go

What: Longmont City Council study session

When: 7 p.m.Tuesday

Where: Civic Center Council Chambers, 350 Kimbark St., Longmont

Agenda: tinyurl.com/7uh62pjf

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