Merriam’s project to reduce the sound of train horns in the city got some welcome news and a boost forward this week when the city council authorized negotiating with a vendor to provide the technology that would make the changes to three grade crossings in the city.
The city council first talked about the possibility of reducing train sounds with the new technology in August.
Bids for the project came in well below expectations. The council had authorized up to $500,000 for the technology installation at the three crossings, which would include Johnson Drive and I-35, 65th and Carter and 67th and Carter. A low bid of $216,250 was received from the recommended vendor. Additional costs could come from reimbursements to BNSF Railroad for required crossing make ready work and upgrades to the initial bid.
The noise resulting from engineers sounding the mandatory grade crossing warning has been a persistent issue in the community. According to a staff report, the city some years ago did a study on quiet zone restrictions at the grade crossings, but only one of the city’s four crossings qualified.
The technology allows for a train to set off warning horns that are directed up the streets crossing the track. The train does not blow its horn at those crossings. An electronic sign tells the engineer that the alternative warning system is functioning as the train approaches the intersection. As a result, the horn sound is limited in its reach which will mean quieter neighborhoods.
Even if the new warning system failed somehow, the crossbars and other warning lights would be flashing at the intersection.
Other cities in the area are also taking a look at the technology.