As the tracks through Winter Park and Maitland have picked up with traffic in the last few years, so have the noise complaints by residents who live nearby.
Throughout Winter Park alone, there are 16 street grade crossings — all areas where Amtrak and CSX freight trains were required to blow their horns to alert residents of their arriving presence.
And one of the biggest issues, said Rob Doolittle — assistant vice president for media and communications at CSX — is the arrival of SunRail in 2014.
“CSX trains have been operating during designated freight windows when passenger trains are not present, including during the overnight hours,” Doolittle told the Observer during a 2017 interview. “While CSX works to minimize the impact of our operations on local communities, we must also prioritize the safety of people in those communities and our employees.”
Since then, the city of Winter Park entered an agreement with the Florida Department of Transportation to establish quiet zones at all 16 crossings in the city. According to the FDOT handbook, a “quiet zone” is defined as being a section of a rail line at least a half-mile in length that contains one or more public crossings at which locomotive horns are not routinely sounded.
The plan calls for upgraded safety measures to be put into place so train engineers will no longer have to blow their horns unless there is a dangerous situation.
The safety precautions include the addition of new lights, signs, barriers and concrete islands — basically anything that can help prevent folks from going around the gate.
The plans for these new installments have been pushed back a couple of times, but as of now, the hope is they will be done sooner, rather than later. There also are multiple spots being worked on at this very moment.
According to an update through the city of Winter Park, FDOT is scheduled to have all Winter Park crossings be quiet-zone compliant by August 2019.
Work already has started on the Pennsylvania, Webster and Canton avenues crossings, and improvements will continue to be made along the corridor until all crossings meet quiet-zone requirements.
The entire corridor — which includes all crossings in Winter Park, Maitland and Orlando — is expected to be completed by the end of 2019.
The project to develop these quiet zones will cost up to $2.3 million — 29% of which will be funded by the city, while FDOT will take on the 71% majority share.