AP NEWS

Lafayette, Louisville to Partner on Funding to Build ‘quiet’ Railroad Crossings

December 29, 2018
A train travels through downtown Louisville as seen from Pine Street looking westbound in March 2015.

Lafayette and Louisville are poised to partner on a several hundred thousand dollar effort to quiet the decibel booms familiar to those living near the county’s railroad crossings.

The project — known colloquially as “quiet zones” — will focus funds on BNSF railroad crossings at Pine Street, Griffith Street and South Boulder Road in Louisville and Baseline Road in Lafayette, according to planning documents; a fifth, at Louisville’s Dillon Road crossing, will be covered solely by the respective city.

The structural makeup of these zones often are hard to broadly define, officials say, with most customized to fit the needs of a specific location. Though they typically involve four-quadrant gates — they’re better at stopping people from driving around the traditional two crossing arms, officials say — and electronic notification systems.

The zones’ existence will not necessarily guarantee surrounding residents peace of mind; train operators still have the option to sound the horns if they see something on or near the tracks, or otherwise believe that a potentially dangerous situation exists ahead, officials say.

Lafayette is scheduled to approve its side of an intergovernmental agreement — roughly $150,000 for construction costs — next week, capping a joint effort that city officials say has been nearly three years in the making.

The issue was first raised in a 2016 joint session between the cities’ governing bodies, followed by Louisville staff securing federal funding through the Colorado Department of Transportation and the Denver Regional Council of Governments.

Consulting firm Felsburg, Holt and Ullevig was selected in early 2017; Lafayette’s City Council approved an initial IGA with Louisville for shared design costs in February 2017.

“It was originally anticipated that the design process would be completed by the end of 2017 with construction in 2018,” Outgoing Lafayette City Administrator Gary Klaphake wrote in a staff report. “However, the approval process thorough the Federal Railroad Administration, BNSF, Colorado Public Utilities Commission and CDOT took longer than expected.”

Neighboring Boulder and Longmont both have mulled their own quiet zone funding, albeit with significantly wider margins. In 2016, Boulder explored how much it would cost the city to install a variation of quiet zones at its nine crossings.

Kathleen Bracke, manager of the city’s Go Boulder transit program, said at the time that early estimates suggested it would cost about $5 million to create quiet zones at each of the nine crossings.

In Longmont, city council directed staff to include more than $350,000 for planning and designing quiet zones crossing improvements next year, although that would still fall short of covering the eventual total cost — estimated to be up to more than $6 million — of constructing those changes at up to 11 crossings.

According to the Lafayette report, the cost sharing for the construction phase will be based on the “portion of actual construction cost” of the Baseline Crossing, as compared to the other three Louisville crossings.

“Fate has smiled on Lafayette as our crossing has been much simpler to construct,” Klaphake wrote, “which results in a lower cost to Lafayette.

“By jointly performing this design and construction work over four BNSF crossings, there is a huge economy of scale that will save Lafayette thousands and thousands of dollars compared to performing this project on our own,” he added.

Anthony Hahn: 303-473-1422, hahna@dailycamera.com or twitter.com/_anthonyhahn

AP RADIO
Update hourly