Falmouth railroad crossings to go quiet Jan. 1

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FALMOUTH — Trains traveling through town will stop blowing their horns Jan. 1, 2015, when a railroad quiet zone goes into effect.

Speaking at a Town Council meeting about several projects, Public Works Director Jay Reynolds on Monday also said the town will not pursue plans for a roundabout at the intersection of Bucknam, Falmouth, and Middle Roads.

Reynolds said the town submitted submitted its Notice of Quiet Zone Establishment to the Federal Railroad Administration on Dec. 4.

The plans were initially approved in April, and crossing improvements were constructed during November. The town added some medians and islands, as well as curbing, and made some design adjustments based on input from abutters.

Reynolds said the town has refined the railroad crossing design and has worked with the FRA to address issues of public concern about the quiet zone, which is an area where barriers keep vehicles from driving around crossing gates.

As a result, trains will be prohibited from sounding their horns when approaching the crossings.

The town submitted a notice of intent to the FRA in August, and had to go through a 60-day review period. When that concluded in October, the town hired a contractor for the revised scope of work.

Reynolds said the total cost of the project was $100,000 which was under budget.

The crossings are on Blackstrap, Falmouth, Field and Woodville roads.

Scrapped roundabout

The Town Council originally endorsed an application to the Portland Area Comprehensive Transportation System for a roundabout at the intersection of Falmouth, Bucknam and Middle Roads.

“During the review they found the roundabout would need to be a double-lane roundabout,” Reynolds said. He said the double lane would take an “enormous geographic area,” and that even a single-lane roundabout would require the town to take property and create a right of way.

Additionally, a double-lane roundabout would have increased the cost of the project to as much as $1.5 million.

Ultimately, Reynolds said, it was decided not to recommend the roundabout and instead to have a signaled intersection with lane modifications.

The public works director also discussed work necessary to install natural gas lines, and the status of Route 1 upgrades.

He said Falmouth has coordinated with the towns of Cumberland and Yarmouth on an application and inspection process for public street openings to install the gas lines.

“We’ve been working for a year or so to handle the permit process with Summit (Natural Gas),” Reynolds said.

The decision was made was for the towns to put together a combined permit process.

Reynolds said specifications, guarantees and warrants are included in permit requirements to ensure the infrastructure is protected. For example, if after the job is completed and a trench needs repaving, Reynolds said “we can require (Summit) to do that.”

In recent Days, Summit has agreed to pay $25,000 in fines levied by the Maine Public Utilities Commission, after allegations that the company did not ensure its contractors and workers were qualified to perform some pipeline installation tasks.

Route 1

“A lot has been going on,” Reynolds said of the Route 1 Infrastructure project, which is been a long-planned project to overhaul the business district between the intersection of Route 88 and the Maine Turnpike Spur.

The aspects of the project already completed include all storm drain and sewer system infrastructure improvements, burying of underground duct banks, conduits, manholes, and service lines for power and communications.

“The sidewalks are two-thirds done,” Reynolds said. He said new cables for power and communications will be laid underground during the winter by the private utilities, and they will be energized.

There is still some work to be completed in the spring , and completion is scheduled for around July 1, 2015, he said.

Colin Ellis can be reached at 781-3661 ext. 123 or cellis@theforecaster.net. Follow him on Twitter: @colinoellis.

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Reporter covering the Portland Public School District as well as the town of Falmouth for The Forecaster. Can be reached at 781-3661 ext. 123 or cellis@theforecaster.net.