City continues to investigate ways to mitigate train horn noise
Shawnee It's a long, challenging track for the city to find ways to appease residents in Shawnee who say train horn noise in their area is threatening their quality of life.
Shawnee city staff presented the results of another study on how the city could mitigate train horn noise on the three lines that run through Shawnee. The study produced a plan of action and a list of the potential costs of making specific crossings "quiet crossings."
The city of Shawnee has a total of 14 public and private railway crossings along three rail lines. The Topeka Subdivision rail line has an estimated seven trains per day travel through the northern and western borders of the city from Interstate 435 to Mize Road. The Emporia Subdivision line is the busiest with 89 trains per day running through central Shawnee going north and south just east of Woodland Road. The Fort Scott Subdivision rail line sees 30 trains per day but only enters Shawnee near 79th Street and Switzer Road.
By making some of the crossing on the three lines quiet crossings, the number of train horns around the city could be reduced in populated residential areas.
According to a prioritization schedule put together by the city and a consultant hired to look at the issue, the public crossing with the highest priority "rating" is the crossing at 59th Street on the Emporia Line. The rating was determined by multiplying the number of residential units within one mile for the crossing by the number of trains per day. The 59th street crossing would require the construction of medians and other safety measures that are estimated to cost about $310,000. Other intersections like the 55th Street intersection and the Wilder Street and Clair Street intersections are estimated to cost about $500,000.
The crossing that residents in Shawnee have been most vocal about has been the private crossing on Martindale Road near 75th Street. In order for the city to pursue making the crossing quiet, it would first need to purchase the property from the private owner and the estimated cost to make the crossing meet safety standards would be an additional $500,000.
The Shawnee City Council discussed on Tuesday other options for making the Martindale Road crossing quiet. All of the options presented came at significant cost. Mickey Sandifer suggested combining the Martindale crossing with the 75th Street crossing and building a gravel road that would link the private property to 75th Street. That gravel road, according to the city, would cost $450,000 to construct.
Area resident Jack Tredinnick called the living situation in the area "untenable" because of the train horn noise. He described to the council how each of the 89 trains that rumble through the area are required to blare their horns three to four times before crossing each crossing.
Members of the City Council and City Manager Carol Gonzales assured the residents that the city is looking into every possible solution for the issue, no matter how difficult. Tredennick appreciated the effort and hoped something could be accomplished within a couple years.
"We do get discouraged," Tredinnick said. "But just because something is difficult to achieve doesn't mean there is not good reason to do it."
Another area resident, Michael Owens, also spoke to the council, but said spending the amounts presented to make the crossings quiet would not be a good way to spend city money. He said that the "home buyers should have known" that the railroads were in their area. Owens said he has lived close to the Emporia Line for 38 years and has never had a problem with the noise.
Council Member Jim Neighbor eventually moved to have the city continue looking at possible remedies to mitigate the noise, including investigating state and federal grants to help with the funding. The council agreed unanimously in favor of Neighbor's motion.