By Jo E. Prout
VOORHEESVILLE — Residents both for and against stopping the train whistles at village railroad crossings attended the village board workshop last week. Some, who favor medians at the two crossings, presented arguments against the county’s reluctance for the project. Others spoke out against the elimination of whistles to warn pedestrians of nearby trains.
Steven Schreiber of the Committee for a Quiet Zone gave a presentation with points the committee asked the village board to make when the village meets with Albany County Department of Public Works officials next month. The two railroad crossings in the village are on roads owned and maintained by the county.
Mayor Robert Conway told the audience last week that the county had previously issued a report with seven main reasons it opposed the installation of roadway medians, which are approved by the Federal Railway Authority as a safety measure that can allow the establishment of quiet zones with no regularly blown train whistles.
The county, in its report that cited unspecified safety issues and aesthetics as reasons it opposed medians or channelization devices that would prevent drivers from crossing the railroads, said it would allow the village to install quad gates, which are also approved by the FRA. At the end of last year, the village board hired its engineer, Barton & Loguidice, to investigate the installation of a quad-gate system. The initial engineering report suggested that quad gates would cost the village $1.1 million.
The committee had said, at previous meetings, that it did not support the more expensive option of the quad gates because less costly alternatives are available. Medians in the roadway on either side of a crossing cost between $186,000 and $300,000, Schreiber said last week.
The posts, or plastic tubes, often used in channelization strips to block traffic from crossing into the oncoming lane, and thereafter crossing the railroad track, are designed to bounce back if they are laid flat, Schreiber said. The medians can be plowed over and have been used in towns in snowy states like New York and Michigan, he said. An average of eight tubes per year may need replacement, he said, at a cost of $15 to $25 per tube.
“Channelization devices could probably work with no road widening whereas median barriers would probably require some widening,” Schreiber told The Enterprise this week.
At the workshop, the committee compared unaesthetic reflectors on the proposed medians with resident exposure to 110 decibel-whistles 60 times per day.
The committee members also asked the board to allow them to meet with the county directly, but the board resisted granting their request.
“The county ought to be able to explain to us what their particular issues are,” Schreiber told the board.
A call to county officials was not returned before press time.
Some residents said that continuing to allow train whistles in the village would keep children safer and warn them of approaching trains if the children were on the tracks.
Schreiber said that safety “is not a quiet-zone issue. We have this problem now.” Historically, village residents cross or walk on the tracks that snake through the village, entering the tracks at numerous places away from the county-owned crossings.
The committee has placed statistics about quiet zones, including the safety of the zones, on its website www.voorheesvilleqz.com, members said.
The village board distributed a list of questions to the audience that it may submit to the county in March. Conway said that residents do not have to wait for a meeting to contact the board, but that they may e-mail or call the village with their comments about a possible quiet zone.