Shelton: Railroad ‘quiet zone’ is a priority

I'm a journalist focused on government, policy, politics and people.
I find what matters and bird dog it like nobody's business.

Tupelo stockTUPELO – Like his predecessor, Mayor Jason Shelton believes trains should quiet down as they pass through the city.

“That horn sure is annoying…,” Shelton tweeted just days after winning election.

He’s making a quiet zone for the city one of his priorities to improve Tupelo’s quality of life.

For decades, citizens have complained about the sound of trains blowing loud horns and whistles and backing up traffic.

Previous city leaders have discussed major proposals to relocate the railroad tracks but didn’t act because of the enormous cost.

While the previous City Council held a work session toward the end of the term to discuss creating a much less expensive “quiet zone” along railroad crossings in the city, it made no decision about it. When the current City Council met for the first time this month, it also decided not to act.

Instead, the council tabled once again discussion to support engineering and design costs at the railroad crossings in the city.

Some council members haven’t seemed ready to put the noisy train as a top priority.

“As far as I’m concerned, we can take that off the agenda,” Ward 7 councilman Willie Jennings said earlier this month.

However, Shelton believes the city should press forward with the train issue, listing quality of life and economic reasons to quiet trains passing through the city.

Designated quiet zones by the Federal Railroad administration require upgrades to crossings in exchange for trains not blowing horns while passing. However, train conductors can still sound horns during an emergency.

An engineering firm has estimated the cost at up to $250,000 for each of the crossings in the city except for Crosstown, which could cost nearly as much of the rest combined.

Shelton said discussions should continue on how to create a quiet zone throughout the city, suggesting a multiphase project and pursuing state and federal support.

“I think it all has to start with leaving it on the agenda and letting us talk about it,” Shelton said.

robbie.ward@journalinc.com