By Robbie Ward
TUPELO – Efforts to create a citywide quiet zone along railroad crossings might go silent for a while.
Mayor Jason Shelton told City Council members Tuesday he still wants to pursue creating quiet zones in the city but now realizes the process might take longer, especially when looking into pursuing state and federal sources for funding.
“The next work session will be in two weeks,” he told City Council members. “I’d be surprised if we have any new answers by then.”
Early in Shelton’s term, he has prioritized having a city free of train horns, something first supported by former Mayor Jack Reed Jr. The current step in the process involves paying for engineering services necessary to limit train whistles and horns in the city to emergencies.
Discussion of quiet zones has appeared on the City Council agenda since May 7 but no action has been taken.
Estimated costs associated with the engineering work for the city’s railroad crossings total nearly $265,000. Establishing quiet zones involves upgrades to railroad crossings in the city, including adding crossing bars, flashing lights and other work to the sides of streets to discourage vehicles driving around barriers to beat a train.
While the total cost of the project is unclear, Shelton has said the city may pursue paying for it in stages.
“I want to meet with our state and federal folks and see if anything is out there,” he said.
Both the current and former mayor aren’t just tired of hearing trains.
They’ve said the city, particularly the Fairpark District, will gain another hotel if the city can get the train’s noise under control.
Both mayors have used arguments for economic development and improved quality of life for establishing quiet zones in the city.
As a long-term goal, Shelton wants to silence trains passing through the city, and then pursue speeding them up as they go through.
Council President Nettie Davis said she’ll keep the quiet zones on the council’s agendas with plans to keep it tabled until further developments.
Shelton recently met with BNSF railroad officials in Memphis to work on building relationships.
“They seem committed to helping with the quiet zone but made it clear that it’s our job to pay for it,” he said.