The Effingham City Council has approved a measure taking the city one step closer to establishing a “quiet zone” for trains running along most of the railroad that runs north-south through the city. This means that trains will no longer sound their horns when passing crossings in some parts of town.

The resolution enters the city into an agreement with the Illinois Central Railroad Company that authorizes the city to do work installing quiet zone delineators at six rail crossings through town: on Rickleman, Evergreen, Temple, Virginia, St. Anthony, and Jefferson Avenues. This rail line is usually referred to as the CN railroad, since Canadian National (CN) operates its trains there.

These delineators are high visibility pylons that will separate lanes of traffic at the crossing, making it harder for cars to drive around the gates at these intersections.

“It would be very similar to the crossing at Evergreen,” said Effingham Public Works Director Jeremy Heuerman.

Though the railroad company and city are in agreement, the process of establishing this quiet zone has lasted at least four years, according to Heuerman. It involves federal, state, and local government agencies in addition to working with the tracks’ owner.

There is one more approval from the Federal Railroad Administration necessary for the quiet zone to be established. Heuerman expects it to be granted in the next several weeks, paving the way for the quiet zone to be in the next several months.

“Sometime this summer is what I’m hoping,” Heureman said.

The city originally intended to establish a quiet zone at every crossing along the railroad, which would have included Clark and Wabash Avenues, but that plan had to be put on hold when an improved pedestrian crossing near the city’s Amtrak station was installed. Because the pedestrian crossing doesn’t have signals, it doesn’t meet the safety requirements for a quiet zone.

In Effingham, there is another railroad that cuts through town. The CSX railroad runs east-to-west and crosses Raney, Banker, and Willow Streets, among others. The city does not plan to establish a quiet zone at those crossings.

“We did do a study with CSX and ICC [Illinois Commerce Commision]. Unfortunately, that area has a few problems that makes it much more difficult to do,” Heuerman said.

These problems include the fact that National Avenue runs alongside portions of the road, meaning that installing pylons to control lane usage wouldn’t meet federal regulations, like they do with the Illinois Central Railroad.

“It’s very unlikely that the CSX railroad will be a quiet zone,” Heuerman said.

The quiet zone project began when concerned citizens asked the city council to look into the matter.

“It was absolutely driven by the folks who live near the train tracks,” said Effingham Mayor Mike Schutzbach.

Though these concerns are important, the mayor added that ensuring the crossings remained safe was the city’s goal — not to mention a requirement under federal rules.

“The whistle is there for safety, so our primary concern is safety. Secondary is the peace and quiet that our citizens deserve,” said Schutzbach.

In other matters, the city council:

  • Approved spending $24,000 to replace stairwell flooring in City Hall. The money is coming from the Central TIF fund, which is dedicated to economic development and redevelopment projects in downtown Effingham.
  • Discussed amending the city’s rules regarding liquor licenses to let hotels and motels allow liquor consumption anywhere on their premise, not just in designated areas. This was brought up by the mayor after a request from Hampton Inn.
  • Discussed purchasing new Christmas lights for the annual display in Community Park at a cost of $20,500. The money being used was raised from donations given at the Christmas display this past year.

Andrew Adams can be reached at 217-347-7151 ext. 132 or andrew.adams@effinghamdailynews.com

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Andrew Adams can be reached at 217-347-7151 ext. 132 or andrew.adams@effinghamdailynews.com