Tupelo Council to vote on railroad 'quiet zone' study

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By Robbie Ward/NEMS Daily Journal

TUPELO – Loud train whistles throughout Tupelo could turn into memories, starting with a City Council vote today to explore “quiet zones.”
City Council members will likely vote to authorize work on a $138,000 “analysis and diagnostics” study that could lead to quiet zones along railroad tracks in the city.
The study would be a necessary first step toward eliminating train whistles at 22 of Tupelo’s 23 railroad crossings. The exception would be the busiest and most prominent – the intersection at Crosstown.
Mayor Jack Reed Jr. encouraged City Council members Monday at the agenda review session to support the effort. He said it would encourage economic development, safety and quality of life for residents and businesses in the affected areas.
Developers interested in locating near Fairpark downtown have requested the city take steps to limit train noise, Reed said.
While the noise from whistles would go away, Reed pointed to safety gains from the quiet zone designation, which requires gates and flashing lights at crossings.
He said this initial look at intersections and railroad crossings would be necessary for future steps to quiet trains in the city.
“I think this would be the first thing positive the city has been able to do with the train and quality of life,” Reed said. “If we don’t do this, we couldn’t do anything else.”
Pursuing a quiet zone study for Crosstown would cost nearly as much as the studies for the rest of the city, leading Reed to balk at including it.
This latest effort is an alternative to a previous study that recommended Tupelo spend $384.7 million in 2008 to relocate trains throughout the city on elevated tracks. With cost prohibiting that effort, the quiet zone along railroad tracks has been pursued instead.
The engineering consulting firm Smith Seckman Reid Inc., which successfully helped the city of Clinton pursue a quiet zone with its railroad crossings, would perform the study.
No estimate is available on the cost of the actual project at this time, said Sharpie Smith, principal of the consulting company.
robbie.ward@journalinc.com