If members of the Lakeland Downtown Development Authority have their way, Lakeland drivers will soon see major changes to seven downtown railroad crossings. LDDA created a committee to work with the City of Lakeland and other authorities to facilitate the creation of a railroad quiet zone in downtown Lakeland.
A section of track where train horns are forbidden, a Quiet Zone is created by the Federal Railroad Authority after rail crossings are constructed to meet strict standards. Under a proposal written in 2007, seven Lakeland rail crossings would be affected: New York Avenue, Missouri Avenue, Florida Avenue, Tennessee Avenue, Massachusetts Avenue and Ingraham Avenue.
A Lakeland city official informed the LDDA group that the 2007 study estimated the cost of the process would be approximately $2 million and would include closing New York Avenue at the rail crossing.
LDDA committee members expressed that some downtown visitors and merchants requested the quiet zone. Committee members agreed that it isn’t the noise of the trains that causes the concerns, it’s the train whistles. “If you’re talking at a meeting and a train comes through, you have to stop.” said Anne Furr, director of the LDDA. She regularly tells those planning to stay downtown to reduce the noise by requesting South facing rooms at downtown hotels.
CSX spokesman Gary Sease first offered the quiet zone concept to concerned citizens in early 2007. It has stayed on the back burner as Lakeland City officials and Florida Department of Transportation staff discussed who would pay for the work.
City Commissioner Don Selvage, a member of the LDDA Quiet Zone Committee, said the group was formed to keep the quiet zone concept in the mind of city and rail officials; “I want to make sure it doesn’t lose visibility.” Lakeland Assistant City Manager Tony Delgado reassured the group, “Are we still talking about Quiet Zones? The answer is ‘Yes.'”
In May, Lakeland Mayor Gow Fields met with Florida Department of Transportation Stan Cann to discuss FDOT funding quiet zones in Lakeland. In a letter to City Manager Doug Thomas, Fields wrote that Cann researched the issues and “confirmed that our agreement was intact.” Fields continued:
Once final approval occurs, CSX will construct the Quiet Zones as part of the project to do the S-Line improvements. He did go into further detail regarding the timeline once the Federal Rail Administration approves the track purchase for the commuter rail project commonly referred to as SunRail.
At this point, please follow up with Secretary Cann regarding where the Federal Rail Administration is in the approval process and when they anticipate final approval. Il will also be helpful to know of any potential obstacles to this approval. We also should inquire as to how the design and engineering process will work and how we will be engaged to participate in that particular part of the Quiet Zone development project. — Mayor Gow Fields to City Manager Doug Thomas May 12, 2010
The LDDA concluded their first meeting urging the city to act quickly. Deputy City Manager Tony Delgado stated he would meet with FDOT Rail Administrator Arlene Barnes after July 11th to discuss the state of the quiet zone plan.