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Quiet zones proposed for 900 S. trains

But plan may require changes in traffic flow

Salt Lake City and Union Pacific officials Friday disclosed two proposed "quiet zones" on the city's west side where freight trains won't squeal their noisy whistles.

The zones are designed to give residents who live along the city's western freight-train lines some respite from the ear-splitting whistles that sound off all day, including late-night and early morning hours.

At an afternoon press conference Mayor Rocky Anderson and U.P. representative Cameron Scott announced that they had reached an agreement to create the quiet zones. Along with the much-discussed 900 South quiet zone from 700 West to Redwood Road, city officials revealed another zone that will run near 600 West from 200 South to 500 North.

"This will improve quality of life for families that have to deal with the constant travel of trains in their back yards," Anderson said.

The city will hold a public meeting Monday, March 31, at the Sorenson Multi-Cultural Center at 6:30 p.m. to hear input on the 900 South quiet zone. A public hearing on the other quiet zone, dubbed the downtown quiet zone, will likely come in about two to three weeks, said D.J. Baxter, Anderson's senior policy adviser.

Public input is needed because there is the possibility that the quiet zones will affect area traffic patterns. In order to create a quiet zone, the city must prove that whistles are not needed to keep the street crossings safe. To accomplish the task, the city could close a street at the crossing or it could make a street one-way or the city could place large medians near the crossing making it impossible for cars to go around downed railroad crossings, Baxter said.

The city wants to detail both the 900 South and downtown zones so it can take them to the Federal Railroad Administration at the same time. While the FRA has approved the quiet zones, the body needs to approve final details to make certain the plan is safe.

The Utah Department of Transportation will also need to give its design approval and the City Council will have to appropriate the funds necessary for construction. The cost of the 900 South line could range from $500,000 to $2.5 million. The city's Redevelopment Agency, Baxter said, has already set aside some money for the downtown zone.

Once construction begins, the zones could be finished in about six weeks, Baxter said.

Besides the quiet zones, the city and U.P. are making efforts to make the line safer as it passes through residential neighborhoods. A fence is set to be installed along the 900 South line as well as two crossing guards near elementary schools.

Anderson vowed Friday to continue working until all, or most, train traffic is off the controversial 900 South line.