Maitland is considering converting to some one-way roads along its rail corridor in order to cut $1.5 million off the price tag to silence train horns in the city.
Under the proposal, George and Packwood avenues would be open to only eastbound traffic while Horatio Avenue would be open to only westbound traffic, all between Highway 17-92 and Maitland Avenue, Maitland Public Works Director Rick Lemke said. Doing so would eliminate the need for quadruple barrier gates— $250,000 each — at those crossings.
“Everybody’s first reaction is, holy cow, what are you doing,” Lemke said, “but realistically there are significant benefits to it (going to one-way streets) — significant cost savings.”
On Monday, the City Council gave the OK to send the quiet zone proposal to Metroplan Orlando for inclusion in a regional report associated with SunRail. Central Florida cities along the rail line, including Winter Park, are hoping to qualify for a federal quiet zone grant. Currently, the grant is not funded.
“If we don’t submit an application to Metroplan, we have zero chance of getting funding,” Mayor Howard Schieferdecker said.
But that doesn’t mean one-way streets are on their way, he said. “We’re just saying we’re exploring it…. Please don’t think we’re trying to get one-way streets (passed) at this Council meeting.”
Quiet zones are railroad crossings where the conductor is prohibited from sounding the horns as the train approaches. Train horns already bother many residents, and the forthcoming SunRail commuter rail system will only increase the frequency of the sound.
SunRail is initially scheduled to run 51 trains a day – 102 minutes of horn noise – through the area, Maitland Transportation Engineer Charlie Wallace said. At build-out, 75 trains will come through per day.
But quiet zones don't come cheap. They require that municipalities install special gates and curbs that make it more difficult for cars to cross the tracks when a train is on its way.
Converting to one-way traffic would eliminate the state’s requirement for quad gates, which completely block pedestrian or cars from crossing the tracks.
Maitland had originally projected their nine quiet zones would cost $3.2 million. The cost included installing quad gates at eight crossings and special curbing at a few. SunRail knocked that cost down to $2.7 million due to crossing improvements associated with the commuter rail project.
Under the latest proposal, the city would install quad gates at just three of the intersections — Greenwood Road, Ventris Avenue and Lake Avenue — bringing the total cost down to just more than $1 million.
Councilman Ivan Valdes asked the city to also consider converting Ventris Avenue to a one-way road to save an additional $200,000. That move would affect him personally, as his office is on Ventris.
In Winter Park, the city has partial funding to install the infrastructure for the quiet zones. They too are hoping to secure a federal grant to pay for the rest. Their 16 intersections carry a $3 million price tag, city spokeswoman Clarissa Howard said. Most of the crossings require quad gates.
Lemke said that one-way streets would enhance the city’s long-term transportation plan by diverting through traffic from downtown to Maitland Avenue and allowing parking on both sides of the street. One-way traffic is also slightly more pedestrian friendly.
“It will give it more of a downtown feeling,” he said.
Former Maitland City Councilman Jeff Flowers said residents should embrace the one-way street proposal, especially as the city moves on plans to revitalize its downtown.
“We’ll have changes in Maitland whether we want it or not. … Why not save $2 million now and quiet the town?” Flowers said. “I live a distance away but I hear ’em; they wake me up.”