Wednesday, March 04, 2009
The Oregonian Staff
Tualatin policymakers hope to use federal stimulus money as part of a new and cheaper plan to eventually end the use of train horns by TriMet’s Westside Express Service.
City officials now say they can create a citywide quiet zone for about $2.5 million, half the original budget-busting price tag. But the lower cost comes with fewer safety enhancements, and the horns probably would continue blowing for another two years until improvements are made.
“I’m really cautiously optimistic,” said Tualatin City Manager Sherilyn Lombos.
Unlike TriMet’s light-rail system, the 14.7-mile commuter-rail project travels a freight line and is required to sound horns four times at each public crossing.
Since service began Feb. 2, Tualatin is being rattled by as many as 1,280 weekday warnings of at least 96 decibels a blast.
Officials considered safety measures at nine of 10 city crossings to create quiet zones. But leaders now say they can do a cheaper version, making median and four-quadrant gate improvements at only four crossings, while still complying with federal regulations for quiet zones, eliminating the need for horns.
“I’m thrilled,” Tualatin Mayor Lou Ogden said.
Even if Tualatin moved forward with its plan today, the lengthy review and construction process means a quiet zone is probably 18 months to two years away, said Dave Lanning of the Oregon Department of Transportation Rail Division.
Although preliminary, the plan would tap as much as $1.3 million from the city’s urban renewal fund. Tualatin will receive another $700,000 of federal stimulus money through Washington County.
“We all sympathize with the city of Tualatin,” said Anne Madden, a county transportation spokeswoman.
Meanwhile, TriMet is considering a $250,000 contribution from its share of federal stimulus funds. The transit agency had anticipated using the money for wayside horns at WES crossings — thought to be less intrusive than the train horns.
The possibility of quiet zones is bittersweet for residents who live near crossings in Tualatin.
Erin Stadick, a regular at City Council meetings, said he is encouraged but said the ongoing horn blasts will make for a long two years.
“I believe that due to pressure, they now realize that they have to do something,” Stadick said. “I don’t think it should have ever gotten to this point.”
Brad Schmidt: 503-294-5199; firstname.lastname@example.org