NORTH RIDGEVILLE — Residents of Sugar Ridge Road have been wondering just when they will finally hear the last of train whistles from the dozens of trains that rumble through town at one of four crossings being converted to “quiet zones.”
“They spent quite a big sum of money and promised that these quiet zones would be in place and operating by now, but it never happened,” Sugar Ridge resident Russ Sigsworth said this week.
“There are a lot of people down here who live close to the tracks who are interested in this,” Sigsworth said.
“The trains are still blowing their whistles, and it looks like all the equipment is at all four crossings,” he said.
Residents have long endured substantial noise from the 70 to 80 freight trains that pass through the city on a daily basis.
Mayor David Gillock blames the delay on a combination of government and railroad bureaucracy.
“This thing has been driving me nuts,” Gillock said. “It feels like it’s been going on forever. I’m getting three to four calls a day about it.”
Activation of the nearly $2.5 million “quiet zones” is being delayed due to a decision by Norfolk Southern to tear out and replace rails and ties at the Chestnut Ridge Road crossing.
“It’s a case of one (railroad) division not knowing what the other is doing,” Gillock said. “All the gates and devices were installed and then the maintenance division comes through and decides to tear out the ties and rails because they had better materials available.”
Bill Klostermeyer, a neighbor of Sigsworth, is another Sugar Ridge Road resident who continues to be irritated by the daily onslaught of train whistles.
Klostermeyer said he was told by city officials in July that the delay had to do with “red tape” between the railroad and federal government.
“That was more than two months ago,” he said. “I’ve given up trying to inquire anymore. I don’t think anyone has a really good handle on it.”
Planning for the “quiet zones” began in 2009 when the city learned it would receive some $800,000 in federal stimulus money for the work, along with $694,000 in Congressional earmarks for Ohio.
Remaining costs are being footed by the Norfolk and Southern Railroad and Ohio Rail Development Commission.
To be installed at major crossings on Chestnut Ridge, Root and Race Roads, “quiet zones” typically consist of sets of double gates on either side of railroad tracks at given crossings. The double gates block all lanes of traffic to prevent drivers from going around one gate onto and over tracks.
The double gates thus eliminate the need for approaching trains to blow their whistles to alert traffic.
A fourth crossing on Maddock Road was deemed too cramped for the double gate system. A series of bright yellow posts were erected on the center line of the two-lane road on either side of the crossing.
Klostermeyer said he worries the posts will end up being knocked down by city snowplows.
“I was assured the service department is aware of them being there and that will not be the case,” Klostermeyer said. “We’ll see what happens.”
Once all of the work is done, Norfolk Southern will test the crossing equipment, and the city will apply to federal transportation officials for “quiet zone” status.
Gillock hopes to have the crossings activated and train whistles go silent in two months time.
“I look forward to the elimination of whistles and horns sometime soon,” Klostermeyer said. “It will be a nice Christmas present.”
Contact Steve Fogarty at 329-7146 or firstname.lastname@example.org.