All's not quiet in Felida
Here’s a plot line: Residents are trying to get Clark County to build improvements to the railroad crossing at Northwest 122nd Street in order to have the area designated as a quiet zone.
Approximately a dozen people, including residents from the Felida Moorage and at least one home builder who wants to keep putting up houses in the Moongate subdivision (site of the 2011 Clark County Parade of Homes), attended a work session Wednesday at the Public Service Center.
Before the meeting, residents were discussing the problems with trains that run on the BNSF double tracks: the long, loud horns, even on Christmas Day, and the idling trains.
Axel Swanson, the county’s senior policy advisor, gave the presentation to Commissioners Tom Mielke and Marc Boldt (Steve Stuart was absent).
Here’s an aerial of the crossing:
And here’s what it looks like:
Swanson told commissioners that he’s researched the Federal Railroad Administration’s rules for creating a quiet zone, as well as the costs. He’s talked with BNSF. He needed permission from commissioners to move forward with filing a notice of intent with the FRA to create a quiet zone, knowing that a quiet zone will require safety improvements to the crossing. Those improvements will have to be paid for by the county, unless residents help cover the costs.
Commissioners gave Swanson the go-ahead but expressed reservations.
Mielke said to plan for the least expensive option, which, given that the roadway will have to be widened to accommodate a median, will cost between $10,000 and $20,000.
But the price tag could be higher if more work needs to be done.
Commissioners also wondered about who would pay. Swanson said typically community members would step up and pay for it, and while some members have said informally they’d be willing to chip in, there’s no agreement.
Commissioners also questioned county liability if there’s an accident at the intersection, as well as the fairness of this project leapfrogging other projects the county has on hold because of budget constraints.
Boldt wondered if the commissioners would be setting a bad precedent by paying to fix what amounts to a nuisance.
Then would the next neighborhood group just come in and say, “Just do it for us?” Boldt asked.
Felida resident Troy Jensen (there are men on the “Housewives” shows, you know) first approached Swanson about the quiet zone. He said people moved to Felida because it’s not as developed as Salmon Creek and they didn’t realize so many trains would be going by, disturbing the peace.
One woman held up a list of signatures of residents who want a quiet zone, emphasizing that the wish for peace and quiet was shared by many more than just the ones who attended the meeting. (Wouldn’t that be a great scene for RHOF, a signature-gatherer going door-to-door and having to shout above the noise of the trains to explain the nature of the petition?)
It’s too soon to tell how this will play out. A resident mentioned after the meeting she hoped everything could be done by summer.
Not likely. Administrator Bill Barron said nothing moves quickly with the railroad.
In Vancouver, after three years of discussions only one of eight crossings has been silenced. In Washougal, the entire city is a quiet zone, said Mayor Sean Guard, but it took a few years of work between the city and BNSF to upgrade the crossings so they would be safe enough without horn blasts.
Guard said Thursday it was money well spent.
Gus Melonas, spokesman for BNSF, said the tracks where the trains run through Felida have been there since 1873. More than 50 trains pass through in a 24-hour period, Melonas said. One-quarter of a mile from the intersection, there has to be two long blasts followed by one short and one long blast to announce the train’s arrival.
“We recognize the concerns,” Melonas said. “But the whistle is intended for safety.”
Will neighbors get their quiet zone? Stay tuned.