Cumberland council to reconsider quiet railroad zones

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CUMBERLAND — The Town Council is reconsidering some residents’ requests for quiet zones at the town’s four railroad crossings.

The panel will hold a special meeting on the requests at Town Hall, 290 Tuttle Road, at 6 p.m. Monday, Sept. 10, prior to the council’s regular 7 p.m. meeting.

The Town Council in 2011 had a joint meeting with councilors in neighboring Falmouth to learn more about the zones from the Federal Railroad Administration. Cumberland opted at the time not to establish the zones, given lack of interest from residents.

But an increase of freight and passenger rail traffic has prompted residents to ask the council to revisit the matter.

Lifelong resident Sally Brown spoke about train whistle frequencies on behalf of several audience members at the council’s Aug. 27 meeting.

“The land where we grew up obviously had the trains, but there were fewer, and the whistles were quieter,” she said. The crossings now “are faced with seven different Amtrak train runs, with apparently more planned in the future.”

“The train whistles have continued to get louder and longer,” Brown said. She suggested a committee be formed – including one person who lives near each crossing – to look into establishing quiet zones.

Quiet zones are in effect from Riverside Street in Portland north to Freeport; Cumberland is the only exception, Town Manager Bill Shane said Aug. 29. The town has four railroad crossings in a 2.7-mile stretch of track.

In order to establish a quiet zone, channelization – an approximately 100-foot barricade in the center line of the road to prevent vehicles from going around gated arms – would be installed at the crossings, if necessary. Each one could cost between $25,000 and $35,000, Shane explained.

“You can see if your crossing qualifies to do nothing, which in Falmouth’s case it did, because there weren’t any critical accidents, and the probability of an accident was very low,” Shane said. “… I think most of our crossings would come close to qualifying for those, but it’s kind of a gamble with safety. If we’re going to do this … I’d like to put the barriers in.”

Channelization would only occur at three out of four crossings: Tuttle Road, Route 9 (Longwoods Road), and Greely Road. Muirfield Road, near the Falmouth line, is a private way and would not require a barrier, Shane said. That neighborhood would need both Cumberland and Falmouth to have quiet zones on both sides of that crossing, he noted.

Municipalities do not need permission to establish the crossings, but do need to give the Federal Railroad Administration notice of the change, Shane said.

Even with a quiet zone, rail conductors can still blow the horn at their discretion for safety reasons, he added.

If the council decides to fund the barriers in the fiscal year 2020 budget, installation could take place next summer.

Alex Lear can be reached at 781-3661 ext. 113 or alear@theforecaster.net. Follow him on Twitter: @learics.

Cumberland resident Sally Brown approached the Town Council Aug. 27 about establishing quiet railroad zones at the town’s four crossings.

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A Maine native and Colby College graduate, Alex has been covering coastal communities since 2001, and currently handles Bath, Topsham, Cumberland, and North Yarmouth. He and his wife, Lauren, live in the Portland area, and Alex recently released his third album of original music.