Quiet zone election TuesdayJamestown residents go to the polls Tuesday in a special election to establish a quiet zone in Jamestown.
By: Toni Pirkl, The Jamestown Sun
Jamestown residents go to the polls Tuesday in a special election to establish a quiet zone in Jamestown.
Already more than 110 voters have turned in absentee ballots on the initiated measure to eliminate train horns sounding at city railroad crossings. The ballot asks voters to approve “creation, construction and enactment of an ordinance … relating to establishment of a Quiet Zone for railroad traffic … in accordance with Option Set 1 of the Quiet Zone Assessment … prepared by SRF Consulting.” The estimated construction cost is $470,000, financed by a city-wide special assessment.
Although the ballot includes a special assessment for the entire amount, should the measure pass, the city can apply for $225,000 in state funding to cut the cost nearly in half. Without the state funding, the cost would be $2.20 each year for 10 years. With state funding, the cost per 7,000 square-foot lot would be about $1 each year for 10 years.
Construction of a quiet zone would silence horns on the 26 or more trains a day going through Jamestown at six Burlington Northern Santa Fe Railroad crossings.
The option chosen by the City Council would construct concrete medians separating the driving lanes to prevent motorists from going around the crossing arms when they’re down. The medians would be constructed at the Third Street Southeast, Seventh Avenue East, Second Avenue East, First Avenue North and Second Avenue West crossings.
Pedestrian mazes would be installed on sidewalks on all four sides of the three downtown crossings. A pedestrian maze forces walkers and bicyclers to turn left and then right through the maze before crossing the tracks.
With the construction of a quiet zone, the crossings would be more than three times safer than they are now with trains sounding their horns, according to national statistics. Some who oppose the quiet zone argue that because there’s no history of a fatality or serious injury due to a train that has occurred at any city crossing the safety factor is irrelevant.
“The Federal Railroad Administration shows that for five years of ‘Accident Data Years’ … there were zero accidents,” Jamestown resident Harvey R. Jensen said in a letter to the editor printed in Thursday’s Sun.
Option Set 1 also calls for the closure of the Third Avenue West crossing, as the least expensive choice. Equipping it for the quiet zone would have cost about $500,000, more than all the other five crossings combined. Closing the crossing has been perhaps the most controversial portion of the quiet zone plan. Opponents of the measure want to keep the crossing open and believe voting against the quiet zone will do that.
“If a ‘yes’ vote prevails, this crossing will be closed,” Jensen wrote.
Closing the Third Avenue crossing is a part of the city’s negotiations with BNSF for easements that would widen downtown parking lots in their reconstruction. Closure discussions started long before the quiet zone became an issue. The $27,000 it would cost to close the crossing is included in the quiet zone price tag.
Jamestown residents opposed to the quiet zone project have argued it’s unnecessary and a waste of money. JoDee Rasmusson, executive director of the Jamestown Chamber of Commerce, disagrees.
Rasmusson said constructing a quiet zone in Jamestown is the next step in downtown revitalization. Just five years ago, she said, the condition of the downtown was the No. 1 complaint for residents. Since then, the Buffalo City Grille, Babb’s Coffee House, The Continental Bistro and other businesses have begun to revive a dying downtown.
“We have activity downtown and people walking around now, day and night,” Rasmusson said. “I think people are taking it all for granted, but we can’t become complacent, we’ve just begun.”
She added the train horn noise discourages businesses from wanting to locate or remain in the downtown core. People hesitate to stay at the Gladstone Inn, Rasmusson said, because they’re awakened all night long by trains going through town. Train noise also affects meetings, conferences and other events downtown.
“There is an economic impact,” she said.
Opponents have a variety of reasons why they are against the quiet zone project. For some it’s about nostalgia, for others the train noise only bothers people who live and work downtown. And for Tim Gutschmidt, there are people in town who need the train horns.
“When I’m leaving my house and I hear a train whistle, that tells me to head to the viaduct,” Gutschmidt wrote in a letter to the editor printed in Friday’s Sun. “I am sorry for the people who can’t carry on a conversation in front of Babb’s or Buffalo City Grille when there is a train, but how about those of use who can’t get to work, daycare, school, the grocery store, etc.?”
The special election on the quiet zone measure is from 7 a.m. to 7 p.m. Tuesday in the Exchequer Room at the Civic Center. Voters will need to present identification as proof of residency.
Sun reporter Toni Pirkl can be reached at (701) 952-8453 or by e-mail at firstname.lastname@example.org