Railroad Quiet Zones are areas in which trains are prohibited from blasting their horns. These areas balance the needs of residents and business with the safety concerns that trains and vehicular traffic can bring up. Done correctly, Quiet Zones can have a marked improvement on the quality of life of a community and incresed economic development opportunities.
In Ohio, municipalities have the legal ability to implement quiet zones, as long as the required safety improvements are made. These safety improvements could include measures such as channelization devices for vehicular traffic, raised medians, or extra gates and lights at crossings.
We’ve been very pleased with the quiet zone and how it is already stimulating additional private investments in downtown businesses. The $4 million dollars invested will certainly pay off in multiples for us as we move into the future. We’re thankful for BNSF and their willingness to work with us on this project. Downtown Edmond is going to see more than $100 million in [future] development. None of it would have been possible without the Quiet Zone. This means more people living downtown with more jobs, more revenue for local businesses, and tax dollars collected by the city.
Quiet zones are not rare in Ohio. In a study completed by Tipp City in 2019, the community found that there are 17 quiet zones in Ohio, which are home to 59 at-grade railroad crossings. They are mostly found in the northern part of the state, locally there is a Quiet Zone both in Moraine and Springfield.
Troy actually looked at Quiet Zones back in 2013 and that effort was championed by then City Council Member Al Clark. Mr. Clark felt that quiet zones would create an "east end that is quiet, business and residential friendly.” There is no doubt that he was correct.
An article in the Dayton Daily News on the proposal stated that the expense for the project would cost nearly $2 million. $450,000 of that cost would be needed to imporve the East Franklin Street crossing, as well as $1.37 million in other improvements. Fortunately, since that article, the Franklin Street crossing has been upgraded with gates, where before it only had lights; that $450,000 price tag would be expected to be lower.
At the time city leadership felt that the price tag was simply too high and that Quiet Zones was not a community priority. At the time, Patrick Titterington believed that:
Even if we had that kind of money in reserves, I firmly believe that a truer community-wide economic development initiative worthier of investment would be the Riverfront/Treasure Island development
As a community, we ended up with Treasure Island, but we never worked towards Quiet Zones. As I talk to residents on our city's East Side (and increasingly the North Side), trains are becoming more and more of an impediment to our resident's quality of life, especially as these horns blast at all hours of the day. And if we look at what happened in Edmond, Oklahoma and other communities, we can see expect to see a marked increase in economic development and prosperity if we are willing to put in quiet zones in our community, especially in our downtown area.
It's been nearly a decade since we have discussed Quiet Zones. A lot has changed in that time and it is time to have that discussion again!