Funding comes in for quiet zones
Winter Park and Maitland railroad crossings are set to get significantly quieter in the next three years.
Both cities were chosen this month to receive a portion of the $10 million pot of state funds allocated by the Florida Department of Transportation to help cities install quiet zones at railway crossings to help silence train horns.
Maitland received $909,000 in grant money from the state, which is 49 percent of the total estimated cost to redo all eight crossings in the city. Winter Park received 48 percent of the estimated cost of its quiet zones in grant money, with an award of $1.1 million from the state.
Quiet zones reconfigure intersections of road and rail with extra layers of safety barriers to keep cars off the tracks as a train approaches, making it unnecessary for trains to blow their horns at every crossing. The new gates make it impossible for cars to circumnavigate their way through the intersection when a train approaches, unlike the present-day gates, which can be maneuvered around by impatient drivers, said Maitland Public Works Director Rick Lemke.
“If someone wants to get around the gates today, they can. Quiet zones prevent that,” Lemke said. “…It makes for a safer intersection.”
Lemke said Maitland will finalize its grant agreement by June 30, which will spell out that the city must complete construction of its quiet zones within 36 months of that filing. But with just nearly half of the project funded, the city still needs to work out how it’s going to pay for the remaining 51 percent of the cost.
“We have to match this to make it done, so our work isn’t done,” Maitland Mayor Howard Schieferdecker said, “but a big piece of it is on its way.”
Lemke said the city will likely seek additional grant money, possibly from the federal government, or have to pull money from the city’s general fund reserves to cover costs.
“But we’ll do whatever we can to decrease the impact on our own pocketbook,” Lemke said.
Winter Park is also working on securing funding for the remaining half of its quiet zone construction costs. City spokeswoman Clarissa Howard said the city has allocated $700,000 of it’s own funds to revamp its crossings, with $514,500 coming from the remaining balance of funding leftover from construction of the city’s new train station platform.
Maitland resident Chris Raleigh, who Schieferdecker credited with helping to get the idea of quiet zones in Maitland on track starting nearly 20 years ago, said the improvements to the rail intersections will improve the quality of life in the community.
“This has been a long time in the making,” Raleigh said. “I could not be more pleased for this generous grant for Maitland quiet zones … [The quiet zones] will make all of our rail crossings safer, and possibly save lives.”