New obstacles for quiet zones at Falmouth rail crossings

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FALMOUTH — Establishing quiet zones at two town rail crossings has proved an elusive goal, fraught with curve balls and a significant increase in the estimated cost.

That was the consensus at a Town Council meeting that included an update on the stalled projects, a round of public comment and a lengthy discussion by a short-handed council. Of the seven councilors, three were absent: David Goldberg, Sean Mahoney and Chris Orestis.

The council also supported spending $15,000 from the community center budget to review the suitability of the Mason Motz building to serve as a long-term community center.

The railroad discussion began with an update from Town Manager Nathan Poore, who said the original goal was to establish quiet zones in spring 2013 at Field and Woodville roads by installing safety upgrades to meet federal safety standards. Now that goal might not be met until next spring.

The work was stymied when planners realized the town needed to provide updated traffic counts at both crossings, because its 2010 data was considered out of date, Poore said.

Also, when the projects finally went out to bid, the cost had changed significantly, he said.

The town had originally planned to spend $130,000 to install safety upgrades at four rail crossings, including Blackstrap and Falmouth roads – which are already considered quiet zones due to grandfathering – “to treat all crossings equally,” he said.

Poore said the lowest bid for Field and Woodville roads was about $100,000, so the council would have to authorize an additional $70,000 for a total of $200,000 to complete all four projects.

The Woodville Road project is further complicated by a parcel of private property, Poore said. Adding safety enhancements at that crossing would reduce access to the property’s driveway and would cost another $20,000 to mitigate.

The council resolved to look at the property during a future site walk, the date to be determined. It took no action on authorizing the cost increase.

Ben McCanna can be reached at 781-3661 ext. 125 or Follow him on Twitter: @BenMcCanna.