Smyrna approves railroad crossing quiet zone

The Smyrna City Council has voted to move ahead with plans to install a quiet zone railroad crossing along another one of its streets.

The Council at its Feb. 18 meeting approved an agreement with Cobb County to design and install the new crossing on Nickajack Road between Fontaine Road and Summerwood Drive.

The joint undertaking will be funded with Special Purpose Local Option Sales Tax dollars. The total project will cost $435,000; Smyrna will be responsible for $108,750 and the county will contribute $326,250.

Cobb County Engineer Ligia Florim said commissioners will consider approving the agreement at its March 12 meeting. Florim said Smyrna and the county will have to work with Norfolk Southern, the owner of the railroad, during the design phase of the project. That process could take six to eight months.

Once they get the go-ahead from the railroad company, the county will begin construction on the project. Florim said if everything goes well, the project could be done by spring 2020.

According to the Federal Railroad Administration, engineers are required to sound their horns at least 15 seconds before reaching a crossing.

In 2005, the rules were relaxed to allow local governments to create quiet zones. The zones must be at least a half-mile long along railways that have at least one public crossing. The FRA also notes the minimum equipment installed for a quiet zone should include upgraded flashing signals and gates.

Smyrna Mayor Max Bacon said this would be the area’s fourth quiet zone. Two zones are located along Atlanta Road at its intersections with Spring Road and Hawthorne Avenue, and another zone is located at the railroad crossing on Paces Ferry Road in central Vinings, Bacon added.

The quiet crossing installed along Atlanta Road near Spring Road has made a huge success, the mayor said.

“They used to blow the horn constantly,” he added.

The mayor said the Nickajack Road location is about three miles from his house, and he can hear the horns when the trains move through the area. Bacon said the noise has generated complaints from residents who live in the area. Those concerns, he said, have been coming into the city for five to six years.

Now that they have the funding and Cobb County is willing to contribute towards paying for the project, Bacon said the timing has been the perfect opportunity for Smyrna to proceed with the initiative.

“We’ve had great success with quiet zones and it’s made a big difference,” he added.