Letter: City Answers RR Crossing Safety, Quiet Zone Questions
If a quiet zone for the tracks that cross Spencer, Rowell, Mills and Washington streets gets approved by the feds, train horns will no longer be sounded at the crossings.
Several Joliet residents have expressed concern about the at-grade rail crossings in the southeast portion of Joliet. There are two questions that have been raised: (1) Will the sounding of train horns stop with the installation of a “quiet zone,” and (2) Does the extra train traffic affect the delivery of police, fire and paramedic service? In the absence of a quiet zone, railroad companies are required by federal regulations to sound their horns when their trains cross atgrade crossings.
The City of Joliet has been working with Will County and the Canadian National Rail Company (CN) for several months to address both issues. The decision to approve the creation of a quiet zone rests with the Federal Railroad Administration (FRA).
The city has started the quiet zone process for the at-grade crossings at Spencer Road, Rowell Avenue, Mills Road and Washington Street. After the county formally delegates the authority to apply for a quiet zone application on roads over which the county has jurisdiction to the city, the city will file a joint application for a quiet zone for all of the at-grade crossings with the FRA.
The city anticipates a decision from the FRA will be coming in 2013. Assuming the FRA approves the application, supplemental safety measures will be installed shortly thereafter, and the sounding of train horns will cease for those crossings. The CN has already installed constant warning time circuitry at the crossings.
In accordance with the contract the city and CN signed in 2008, CN will be responsible for the cost of installing the quiet zone equipment.
Regarding the public safety issue at the at-grade crossings when trains are passing
through, the Joliet Police Department and the Joliet Fire Department have had emergency rerouting plans in effect for several years.
The city’s 911 Communications Center knows when an at-grade crossing is busy with a passing train. When that happens, the 911 communicator informs the team responding to the emergency of the blocked crossing and re-routes them around the crossing. For Salem Village and Joshua Arms, which are by the Rowell Avenue crossing, Company 3 from the new Fire Station No. 3 on Laraway Road near Chicagoland Speedway is the first station dispatched for calls to Salem Village and Joshua Arms and other homes and businesses in the area.
If the 911 communicator sees the crossing on Rowell is blocked, the communicator can immediately dispatch Company 4 from the Draper Avenue Fire Station No. 4 on the call. In that case, Company 3 would also go to see if the train would clear and allow Company 3 to make their way to the call sooner than the responding Company 4.
If Company 3 receives information while in route to the call that there is a train on the tracks, Company 4 will be dispatched on the call. Company 4 will respond down Briggs to Mills to Rowell to come in the back way. If the train clears the tracks and Company 3 can take the call, they will proceed to the call, and Company 4 is called off.
The city is confident the residents near the Rowell-Spencer-Mills-Washington at-grade crossings will continue to receive timely emergency responses from the city’s first responders.
Once the quiet zone application has been approved and the new equipment has been installed, the residents of that area will continue to hear the sirens of police squad cars, fire trucks and ambulances responding to emergency calls but they won’t hear train horns blowing.
Thomas A. Thanas
Jolilet City Manager