Approve Quiet Zone for planned Adair Railroad Intersection

Approve Quiet Zone for planned Adair Railroad Intersection

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TOMAS VALENTI started this petition to City Manager Decatur City Commission

As part of the overall Atlanta Avenue Railroad Crossing Improvements project, the City of Decatur plans to move the railroad crossing at Atlanta Avenue to its new location in line with Adair Street: "as a new, simplified crossing at Adair Street between West Howard Avenue and West College Avenue and a modern traffic signal system at the new railroad crossing and at Olympic Place." As a part of this complex project, we, the undersigned residents, strongly request the addition of a very important part of a RR crossing in residential areas - a Quiet Zone. This is a special intersection with specifically designed safety equipment to prevent pedestrians from crossing the tracks, in addition to keeping cars from doing so. It is a FRA (Federal Railroad Agency) approved method with multiple safety measures implemented. With the additional safety equipment at the RR crossing, the train's engineer is not required (but allowed if necessary) to sound the safety horn four times at loud levels per crossing - thus, the Quiet Zone. 

There are five key reasons why this particular intersection would benefit from this type of crossing and why the city needs to take action now: 

1. With the city redesigning and spending tax dollars on the new intersection, this is the perfect time to ensure the construction qualifies for the requirements of a Quiet Zone maximizing our tax dollars and bringing best in class safety features to our city. As of 2019 there were already over 892 Quiet Zones across the country (including 2 close by in Decatur) providing for safety without the need of a horn. According to a study commissioned by the City of Eugene,OR, "A quiet zone with the appropriate Supplemental Safety Measures is safer than the current situation." (United Front Federal Priorities 2009). A Quiet Zone would increase livability in Decatur by instilling a more peaceful and less stressful living and working environment, especially with the large number of residents working at home since COVID.

2. This intersection is the only one of the three College Avenue ground level intersections with existing residential homes right next to the tracks. Quiet Zones were considered for the other two, but being that there were not any residential properties close by at the time, it did not pass. When these train tracks were originally built, Decatur was a small town with none of the current density. And the horns on steam locomotives were rarely if ever as loud.

3. It would be very timely as Decatur is revamping its Noise Ordinance to limit gas powered leaf blowers, loud concerts, and loud generators. The controversy over the use of leaf blowers exists as a great annoyance to most of us, due to the fact that their volume levels are between 70-80 decibels (a measure of volume). According to CSX's standards, a train horn must be close to 110 decibels. A decibel level of 110 decibels is 3 or 4 times louder than a leaf blower (every 10 db is double the volume). Anything over 95 db can cause immediate hearing loss. So, not only are we concerned about our own residents' hearing, but also about hearing loss for all the children and caregivers who are waiting at crossings when train horns blast their warnings. 

4. The horn blasts are not just an inconvenience because numerous studies have shown that constant, unnecessary, or harsh noise has been shown in numerous studies to cause undue stress which can affect all areas of life. Furthermore, train horns can disturb sleeping which affects the productivity and mental well-being of Decatur residents who live even at the edge of the city - especially in the summertime, when sound travels farther during the clear, cool nights, and people are more likely to have their windows open. The mental and physical health of the community is at risk, including but not limited to the elderly, our veterans, and our working professionals and their children. Loud sounds are also effective in breaking a person’s mental and physical well-being, that they have been utilized as tortured mechanisms in recent wars. The excessive loud blasts of the train horns trigger impairing emotional symptoms for people, especially for those with mental disorders, including people with PTSD, which may result on a safety risk for those directly affected, their loved ones, and even the general public. Interrupted sleeping patterns leads to depression, chronic fatigue, weakened immune system, hypertension, heart disease, and stroke, many of which are leading causes of death in the US. It is for these, and many other reasons, that Quiet Zones, with the appropriate supplemental safety measures, are safer than the existing disruptive train horn sounding practice.

5. A Quiet Zone would be very good for business. Businesses that are located near the tracks would especially benefit. From hotels and restaurants to B&B’s and residential complexes, a quieter Decatur is more productive and attractive economically.  Clearly, tourism and home values would get a boost.

We hereby ask the Commission to consider, and ultimately approve, our petition to create a Quiet Zone at the new crossing, thereby being in alignment with the new Noise Ordinance and protecting the hearing and peace of our citizens and neighborhoods, and enhancing our community for everyone with consideration of both safety and quality of life aspects.

https://www.cdc.gov/nceh/hearing_loss/what_noises_cause_hearing_loss.html

https://www.csx.com/index.cfm/library/files/about-us/property/quiet-zones/

 

 

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