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Antis Township looks at federal regulation allowing communities to silence train horns

The issue of railroad crossings was brought up at the Antis Township Supervisors meeting last week.
Township manager Jeff Ziegler explained that as of June 24, thousands of communities nationwide are now able to consider silencing train horns at highway-rail grade crossings, provided safety needs established by the Federal Railroad Administration are met.
The Final Train Horn Rule is the result of a 1994 law mandating the use of the locomotive horn at all public highway-rail grade crossings, with certain exceptions. This rule pre-empts applicable state laws and related railroad operating rules requiring locomotive horns be sounded.
The establishment of a new quiet zone requires at minimum that each grade crossing be equipped with flashing lights and gates. 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.
The new rule also establishes the first-ever maximum train horn volume level and will reduce the amount of time the horn is sounded, which will be beneficial to communities that decide not to pursue quiet zones.
Antis-Township manager Jeff Ziegler explained what this ruling means in Antis Township.
“A new quiet zone could be established, if all crossings are equipped with gates and lights and its risk index is less than the national risk threshold,” said Ziegler.
He said as far as having gates and lights, the Tipton and Fostoria crossings would be okay. However, he added that the risk index calculations were not at the levels required.
The risk index for the Tipton crossing was calculated at 31,082 with trains using their horns. When calculated without the use of horns, the risk index rose to 51,846. The national risk index is 17,030, making Tipton three times higher than the level that is considered safe.
There are several options available to communities to help lower the risk at railroad crossings. According to Ziegler, the estimated cost to add safety measures, and reduce the risk to something acceptable, would range from $13,000 to $320,000.
The cost would have to be worn by the township, including the setup and long-term maintenance fees.
Supervisor Charles Taylor asked Ziegler to address the least expensive ways to lower the risk.
Ziegler shared the three lowest options, beginning with a $15,000 plan. After the first three plans, the rest of the corrective actions were listed with a minimum price of $100,000.
“So, these are the only three options that are even viable when it comes to cost,” Taylor pointed out.
However, a problem arises with the three cost efficient plans because many corrective actions they suggest are not feasible when it comes to the Tipton and Fostoria areas. Due to factors such as the road right-of-ways and the amount of available space to work with, the township may not be able to implement the safety precautions required. One plan called for 60 feet of uninterrupted roadway, which isn’t available at either Antis Township crossing.
Taylor said his initial reaction to the situation, after hearing the risk index calculations, was that of the safety of area children.
“There are many buses that cross those tracks, several times a day, and I for one do not want to tell parents that we’re increasing the risk of their children crossing the tracks,” said Taylor.
Additional information is located at the FRA web site at www.fra.dot.gov.