Railroad crossing, quiet zone construction

The intersection of Sixth Avenue South and First Street is the first to be reconstructed in the city’s bid to establish a quiet zone near Riverview Drive.

CLINTON — Construction in front of the Clinton County Historical Museum marks the start of a quieter riverfront in Clinton.

During a public meeting in August, Clinton city officials unveiled a plan for a quiet zone along the railroad tracks a block west of Riverview Drive. Intersections in quiet zones have more barriers than regular railroad crossings, and trains are therefore allowed to pass through the intersections without blowing their whistles.

The intersection at South First Street and Sixth Avenue South is the first of the city’s intersections to be renovated in the project, City Clerk Lisa Frederick said Tuesday.

“We have to meet the federal regulations for [quiet zones],” Frederick said. “We can’t have just standard crossing arms.”

Under the Train Horn Rule, locomotive engineers must begin to sound train horns at least 15 seconds, and no more than 20 seconds, in advance of all public grade crossings, according to the Federal Railroad Administration.

Train horns sound in a standardized pattern of 2 long blasts, followed by 1 short and 1 long blast. The pattern must be repeated or prolonged until the lead locomotive or lead cab car occupies the grade crossing.

That rule is waived when a city establishes a quiet zone. Railroads are directed to cease the routine sounding of their horns when approaching the zones, identified by public highway-rail grade crossings.

Train horns may still be used in emergency situations or to comply with other federal regulations or railroad operating rules, the Railroad Administration says.

A quiet zone must be at least one-half mile long along the railroad tracks and must have, at a minimum, flashing lights and gates in place at each public crossing.

Clinton’s South Railroad Safety Improvements project involves the reconstruction of Sixth Avenue South at the Canadian Pacific Railroad, median reconstruction and parking lot entrance construction on Fifth Avenue South.

The Fourth Avenue South railroad crossing will be closed and the South First Street crossing will be removed as will the existing park access at South First Street.

The city will construct a new park access road from Fourth Avenue South, install medians on Second Avenue South at the Canadian Pacific Railroad and reconstruct Fourth Avenue North east of U.S. 61.

Sixth Avenue North will be reconstructed at the railroad crossing, as will the southbound lane of Roosevelt Street at Ninth Avenue North.

One proponent of the quiet zone at August’s public meeting was LumberKings General Manager Ted Tornow, who has dealt with the blaring horns for decades. The team’s home stadium, NelsonCorp Field, sits along the tracks and incorporated the train into the LumberKings experience.

But the Minor League team can’t know when it will benefit from the quieting of the horns with the 2020 season canceled and the future of several MiLB teams, including the Clinton LumberKings, in question.