CLINTON — "Quiet zones" along the Canadian Pacific rail line through Clinton are coming to the city's riverfront.
A public meeting Friday at Clinton City Hall featured the unveiling of the plan to establish the zones and renovated intersections coming to where the railway meets Sixth Avenue South all the way to Ninth Avenue North. The zones will be spaces in which incoming trains will no longer be allowed to blow their whistles, and will be dressed with upgraded security features such as new closing gates and medians to add security measures.
Three of those intersections in question will be closed altogether, officials announced Friday; Fourth Avenue South, South First Street, and Fourth Avenue North will no longer allow drivers or pedestrians to cross the tracks. The first phase of the two-phase project could begin as soon as late winter 2020, and is being done not only to combat the number of citizen complaints regarding the "incessant" noise from the whistles, but to also add safety features to the intersections.
"Really, these shouldn't be called 'quiet zones,' they should be called 'safety zones,'" Clinton City Administrator Matt Brooke said Friday. "We want to work through this for the next two to three years by, with, and for the community it affects to give us the safest Clinton, Iowa possible. This is one of those aspects."
The City of Clinton has budgeted roughly $487,000 for phase one in its Capital Improvement Plan for the project, Brooke said, a project which will also look to include intersections from 18th Avenue North to 26th Avenue North as part of phase two in future years. The project is warranted by studies with the Federal Railroad Administration, officials have said, and will cut down on "noise pollution" that has disrupted riverfront activities, along with the daily lives of those who live and work around the railroad tracks.
City officials have partnered with Ankeny-based Snyder and Associates to define the logistics and engineering aspects of the project. A major piece of the "quiet zone" implementation is updating the intersections affected with state-of-the-art gates, as well as center medians to discourage impatient drivers from trying to drive around the gates and across the tracks when a train is coming.
In phase one of the project, intersections at Sixth Avenue South and Second Avenue South will feature "two-quadrant gates," meaning that "gates are only present on the approach side of the roadway" according to a pamphlet distributed at Friday's meeting. Fifth Avenue South, Sixth Avenue North, and Ninth Avenue North will feature "four-quadrant gates," meaning all four quadrants of the intersection at both the approach and trailing sides of the roadway will have gates.
Cindy Spencer, a Snyder and Associates representative, was also on hand Friday to explain the project.
"When you're talking about looking at a quiet zone, what you want to do is improve the safety of the railroad corridor so that when a train is not sounding its horn, it is at least as safe as it would have been if they were sounding their horn," Spencer said. "There are several ways that you can do that."
Clinton Mayor Mark Vulich commended Canadian Pacific officials for their cooperation with the project, along with the railway's efforts to cut down on unnecessary train stoppages along the riverfront that have plagued the district in recent years. The problem has been mostly alleviated, according to the thankful mayor.
One of the most vocal supporters of the quiet zones has been Clinton LumberKings General Manager Ted Tornow, who has dealt with the blaring horns for decades. The team's home stadium, NelsonCorp Field, has long been in the railway's vicinity, being prominently affected by the noise.
Friday, an appreciative Tornow approvingly read the plans to hopefully eliminate his concerns.
"This is great; this is really great news," Tornow told Brooke.