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Galt City Council approves quiet zone for trains traveling through Old Town

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Posted: Wednesday, December 7, 2011 12:00 am | Updated: 5:52 am, Wed Dec 7, 2011.

In the ongoing effort to revitalize Galt's Old Town area, city council members approved a $288,000 plan to create a quiet zone on Tuesday.

The money will go toward federal-mandated upgrades to five Union Pacific railroad crossings within city limits that will allow train engineers to silence their horns while traveling through the city. Instead of sounding a horn, supplemental safety measures, including installing raised medians and additional crossing gates, will be put into place.

Council members opted not to extend the quiet zone to crossings outside city limits.

"If we do not have the funding to do the quiet zone for the entire community, I have an issue with this," Councilman Randy Shelton said in casting the lone vote against the plan.

In the future, the city could spend an extra $57,000 to erect a fence to deter mid-block crossings between A and C streets. One is already planned under a different project, according to City Manager Jason Behrmann.

The city is revitalizing its Old Town along 4th Street with the recent opening of Brewsters Bar and Grill and Galt Place, an affordable senior housing complex with commercial space. Velvet Creamery is expected to move in next year.

It is believed that quieter trains will be a boon to business.

But Ralph McDonald, who lives fairly close to the tracks, said he has no problem with the train noise.

"The horns and whistles have been around for a long time," he said in an email. "It's better to be safe than sorry."

He's doubtful that the city can make the necessary upgrades and spend only the money approved Tuesday.

"The City Council needs to take a look and see what is more important: wasting money on a quiet zone or addressing more important issues," he said.

Galt will join a group of a mere 18 California cities that currently have quiet zones. Among them are Stockton and West Sacramento.

Elk Grove established its first quiet zone in 2008 and has just wrapped up studying an area for a third quiet zone. Installing raised medians to create two quiet zones cost roughly $600,000, according to city spokeswoman Christine Brainerd.

Lodi, too, looked into creating quiet zones, but the cost was about $2 million.

Given its train-versus-pedestrian accident rates and daily traffic, the city qualified only for wayside horns, which would have simply redirected the noise down cross streets.

Galt staff, too, weighed other options but found that most were not financially feasible, according to the staff report. One alternative had a construction estimate of $4.5 million.

On Tuesday, the council allocated $150,000 from community development block grants that cannot be spent on staff or other city costs. The balance for the rest of the project could come from future CDBG funds, Behrmann said.

The city started the quiet zone study in May at a cost of about $60,000.

The five crossings that will be affected include Kost Road, Elm Avenue, and A, C and F streets. Any changes are expected to take up to a year.

Contact reporter Jennifer Bonnett at jenniferb@lodinews.com.

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