Smyrna RR crossing could be silenced

February 19, 2019

The horns of passing trains along one corridor of Smyrna could be shushed in the coming months as part of a $435,000 project that City Council members were expected to consider Monday night.

The proposed agreement with Cobb County would see the city use $108,750 in its Special Purpose Local Option Sales Tax revenues to fund a quiet zone railroad crossing on Nickajack Road between Fontaine and Cooper Lake roads. The county would fund the remainder of the cost, or $326,250.

For an area to be considered a quiet zone, trains approaching rail crossings must not routinely sound their horns, according to the Federal Railroad Administration.

The six-figure price tag for the project covers costs such as the specialized railroad equipment needed to earn the designation, which will put in signalization 1 mile from the intersection for train operators to recognize that they no longer have to blow the horn when they reach the area, according to Councilman Ron Fennel, who represents the area.

“It’s communication between the train and the crossing in both directions since it’s a heavily trafficked line. It’ll have additional crossing bars on both sides to protect drivers and pedestrians, and also by the signalization helps protect the train companies and the train line itself,” Fennel said. “When (trains) approach that crossing (now), because they didn’t have those additional crossbars, they’re required by federal law to blare that horn, and that happens a lot at 2:30 in the morning — people would like to not have that disruption.”

Efforts to designate the crossing as a silent one have been ongoing for about five years, Fennel said, and have involved not one but two county commissioners.

“One fourth of that intersection is in the city of Smyrna, three-fourths in unincorporated Cobb County, so I worked with Commissioners (Bob) Ott and (Lisa) Cupid — they’ve had their district lines altered since we put the request in, I think it was in Ott’s before and now Cupid’s ward,” Fennel added.

Other quiet railroad crossings in Cobb can be found in Powder Springs, Vinings and Acworth. The latter city has five of them, with Mayor Tommy Allegood saying that his may be the only municipality with all of its crossings train-horn free, though adds that engineers retain the discretion to blow their horn during potential threats to safety.

Acworth used some of its SPLOST funds in recent years to install the needed equipment to silence its crossings.

“They were quality of life projects for us, because if you’re a community like Acworth and you’ve got about 40 trains a day going through the community, that’s a lot of noise pollution,” Allegood said. “It’s a positive impact on our businesses downtown, it’s a positive impact on our citizens, because at this time of year, with no leaves on the trees, you can hear the trains from almost every part of the community.”

If council members approve the measure, Fennel said those residing near the railroad crossing could hear fewer horns by the year’s end, as the city’s goal is to have the project done this autumn.