(WKBW release) On Thursday, U.S. Senator Charles E. Schumer called on CSX and Norfolk Southern to rein in their high cost estimates for a project to create quiet train crossing zone in the town of Hamburg, where over 100 trains travel each day.
For years, Schumer has pushed for the project, bringing the companies together with local residents to discuss the need for a quiet zone, as well as securing $475,000 in federal funding to finance the project. These funds, combined with $50,000 in state money should cover the cost of the quiet zone project according to the Federal Railroad Administration.
However, the two companies have offered cost estimates between four and five times those provided by the Federal Railroad Administration, which threatens to derail the essential project.
Schumer is pushing both companies to work with town officials to generate reasonable cost estimates in line with those provided by the FRA, so that the existing funding can be put to use making the project a reality.
“After years of talking about quieting the incessant horn blasts from trains that rumble through Hamburg every day, it’s time to make the Hamburg quiet zone a reality,” said Schumer. “CSX and Norfolk need to redo their cost estimates and bring them back down to earth so that everyone in Hamburg can get a decent night’s sleep. I am going to keep pushing both companies to do the right thing and get realistic about the project’s costs so that we can use the money that has already been secured to build a quiet crossing.”
In 2009, Schumer secured $475,000 for the town of Hamburg so that they could undertake a railroad quiet zone project. At that time, Hamburg also received $50,000 in state funding for a total of $525,000 for the project.
A quiet zone puts barriers in place at a rail crossing that drivers cannot go around, preventing the need for a train to honk its horn, maintaining a quiet area for local residents. For the project in Hamburg, there are two rail intersections with both CSX and Norfolk tracks running parallel to each other. So far the only work done on this project has been survey work and cost estimates.
The Federal Railroad Administration estimates that this project should cost between $100,000 and $140,000 per crossing per track. The costs that go into a quiet zone are inspection and design, the cost of the actual gates and other safety measures, and installation of timers at gates and in the pavement.
However, both CSX and Norfolk Southern responded that the project will cost anywhere between $400,000 and $680,000 per crossing per track. Unless the railroad estimate becomes more in line with that of the Federal Railroad Administration and analogous projects elsewhere, the project will not be affordable based on the federal and town money Hamburg has available for the project. Given the lower cost estimates by the FRA, Schumer believes that Norfolk Southern and CSX can and should work with town officials to generate a plan with a lower cost, so the town quiet zone project can get underway.
A “Quiet Zone” designation allows communities who meet the safety needs at particular highway-rail grade crossings to have train horns silenced. Federal law requires on-coming trains to sound their horns if they are approaching a grade-crossing without advanced safety precautions. The establishment of a new quiet zone requires at minimum that each grade crossing be equipped with flashing lights and gates, and additional safety measures may be required to compensate for the absence of the horn as a warning device. New quiet zones can be in effect 24-hours a day or just during the overnight period between 10 p.m. and 7 a.m.
Western New York is the crossroads of freight rail traffic in the Northeast, and the Town of Hamburg has eight surface crossings and over 12 miles worth of freight track that carry over 100 trains a day through populated residential areas. Approximately 20,000 town residents live within audible range of these tracks.