Railroad quiet zone coming to Martindale Road in Shawnee after approval of agreement with BNSF

Photo by H. Michael Miley via Flickr.
Photo by H. Michael Miley via Flickr.

By Jerry LaMartina

The Shawnee City Council approved paying Burlington Northern Santa Fe Railroad nearly $169,400 to install signals and gates for a quiet zone at 7315 Martindale Road.

Assistant Public Works Director Caitlin Gard wrote in a memo dated Monday to City Manager Carol Gonzales that city staff had worked with BNSF, the Kansas Department of Transportation and the Federal Railway Administration (FRA) to create recommendations for silencing train horns at all city railroad crossings. City staff had presented a prioritization schedule for this effort at a council committee meeting in June 2015. The council approved final plans on March 27, 2017.

The city hired a contractor earlier this year to install a raised road median for $125,000 as part of the project at 7315 Martindale and approved the payment in May, Gard said Tuesday. Installation of the signals and gates is the final step to implement the quiet zone there. Gard said that BNSF started that installation Oct. 2 “and won’t pull off until it’s complete.”

Also in line for quiet zones are crossings at 55th Street and Johnson Drive, 59th street east of Woodland and 75th Street and Martindale, Gard said.

A city report on train horns dated Dec. 30, 2014, details concerns about the volume and frequency of train horns. The FRA passed a ruling in April 2005 requiring horns to be sounded at every public crossing, according to the report. The ruling overrides state law and railroads’ standard operating procedures.

Also from the report:

  • The FRA ruling also allowed communities to apply for and establish railroad quiet zones when supplemental safety measures are used to offset the safety risk from removing train horns. The FRA maintains that train horns are the most effective single safety device for at-grade railroad crossings.
  • Those supplemental safety measures typically comprise gates, medians, flashing lights, alarms, fail-safe monitoring and battery back-up power systems.
  • A quiet zone is defined as a section of at least half a mile of rail line with one or more consecutive public crossings at which locomotive horns aren’t routinely sounded.
  • Private-crossing maintenance for existing crossings typically is the responsibility of the railroad company whose lines the crossings provide access across. The city maintains no private railroad crossings.
  • FRA quiet zones can include private crossings, but BNSF requires private-crossing owners to enter into an agreement with it to indemnify it from liability. The city is not a party in private-crossing agreements and can’t change them.