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Quiet zone silently moving forward in Galt

Safety upgrades would prevent trains from using horns in city’s Old Town

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Posted: Friday, November 1, 2013 11:46 pm

The city of Galt has silently been working on putting a “quiet zone” into place along the downtown railroad tracks.

On Tuesday, the Galt City Council is expected to approve spending roughly $30,000, plus a $7,000 contingency for consultants continuing to look at quiet zone installation.

The project is yet another aspect of revitalizing the city’s aging Old Town.

Less noise, officials hope, will help draw more businesses downtown. Upscale restaurant Brewster’s and Galt Place, a senior housing facility, opened in 2012.

The city has been working for more than a year to create an area where trains won’t blow their horns. It requires upgrades to be made to the seven Union Pacific railroad crossings in and around Galt, at the expense of local taxpayers.

A consultant was brought on board in May 2012 to look at a potential quiet zone. The contract, expected to be approved on Tuesday, includes work performed outside the scope of the original agreement with the city.

An estimated $300,000 was originally budgeted for the project.

Train horn noise has been a quality of life issue for many years, with numerous residents and businesses complaining about it, City Manager Jason Behrmann has said.

He estimates that between 20 and 30 trains traverse the downtown tracks daily. The majority are hauling freight, although four Amtrak passenger trains en route between Sacramento and Lodi travel through the city daily.

Currently, engineers blow their horns as they approach intersections to ensure that both pedestrians and motorists are aware of the oncoming train. But supplemental safety measures such as installing raised medians or additional crossing gates could make the horn-blasting unnecessary.

The quiet zone guidelines are set by the federal government and based on a formula that takes into account the number of trains, street traffic including cars, pedestrians and bicycles, and accident rates.

Although railroad operators are required to comply with quiet zones, engineers are still given leeway to blow their whistle at a person or animal on the tracks within the designated zone.

Elk Grove, one of fewer than 20 cities in California that have quiet zones, established its first such area in 2008. Lodi, too, looked at creating them, but the recommended measures proved too costly.

The Galt City Council will meet at 7 p.m. Tuesday in the city council chambers at City Hall, 380 Civic Drive, Galt.

Contact reporter Jennifer Bonnett at jenniferb@lodinews.com.

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