zone costs in question
By Ben Saylor
Published July 16, 2008
officials are trying to get a sense of the engineering costs for
a quiet zone following a report from Norfolk Southern that it would
take more than half a million dollars for the city to obtain needed
engineering to establish a quiet zone.
Mayor Pamela Bobst reported at City Council’s July
7 meeting that she had received estimates from Norfolk Southern
as to the cost of needed engineering work on the city’s four railroad
crossings in order to establish a quiet zone. The total figure given
by Norfolk Southern was $680,000, Bobst reported. When she asked
for a detailed breakdown of costs from that figure, Bobst said she
was told that work on the Elmwood Road crossing would cost $330,000
and work on the remaining three crossings would cost $110,000, with
an additional $20,000 for power outage indicators. The Elmwood crossing
figure is higher because of a need for constant time warning circuitry
at that crossing.
The $680,000 figure stands in contrast to lower estimates
provided to the city by Railroad Controls Limited (RCL), an independent
engineering company that performed estimates for the city in 2006.
That firm estimated the Elmwood work to cost $175,000, with the
remaining crossings costing $20,000.
Bobst said she forwarded the findings of RCL to Marty
Gelfand, aide to Rep. Dennis Kucinich, who told Bobst he would share
the information with Ron Reis, director of crossing safety for Norfolk
This latest discrepancy of numbers comes after the
city’s efforts to ascertain the correct train count to be used in
determining whether supplemental safety measures (SSMs) needed to
be installed before implementing a quiet zone. Norfolk Southern
had informed the city that the train count used to calculate its
risk index — the figure used to determine whether the city would
need to implement SSMs — would be eight. Using that count, the city
would be over the nationwide significant risk threshold (NSRT),
meaning it would have to implement SSMs. However, Bobst said that
Reis informed her that the per-day average number of trains is the
correct number to use. The city’s average number of trains per month
is generally less than five.
However, at a recent meeting conducted at Kucinich’s
office regarding the 10th anniversary of the Conrail merger and
the third anniversary of the federal quiet zone rule, among other
topics, Bill Harris of Norfolk Southern said that “within regulatory
systems, the definition of a train may differ.”
“The monthly train counts that Norfolk Southern provides
the BRL [Bay Village, Rocky River and Lakewood] communities…are
through freight trains. That is not the train count you use for
quiet zones. The train count you use for quiet zones will be a different
At the meeting, Harris explained that the Norfolk
Southern train count provided to the cities that were part of the
1998 agreement is a tally of through freight trains and does not
include local trains, work trains or passenger trains.
After a conference call involving Harris, Reis and
city officials, however, the city was informed by Harris that the
official train count was four, putting the city below the NSRT.
City Council President James Moran said he was hopeful
that “this will happen sooner or later without the high cost,” and
reiterated that the city is not compromising safety in any way by
pursuing the quiet zone, but is instead trying to make life more
comfortable for residents living near railroad tracks.
Bobst described the process of attempting to implement
a quiet zone in the city as “very frustrating,” and as “a long process
for the residents.”
“This should be a more straightforward process than
it has been,” Bobst told West Life. “But we’ll keep at it.”