Pedestrians and bicyclists may soon have designated paths across three railroad crossings due to the city of Tehachapi signing agreements with Union Pacific Railroad to enhance Green Street, Hayes Street and Dennsion Road with sidewalks, medians and fencing.
“All three crossings will be completely reconstructed for better vehicular, pedestrian and bicycle movements,” said Jay Schlosser, development services director for the city of Tehachapi.
The three Rail Corridor Pedestrian Safety Project agreements for each crossing between the city and Union Pacific had unanimous City Council approval, with discussion of the project first beginning in 2016. The project will use $2.2 million in Active Transportation Program funding to start construction. The capital issues from state and federal funding and Senate Bill 1.
The city of Tehachapi will reimburse Union Pacific, with all three crossings estimated at more than $900,000, according to council agenda documents.
Union Pacific usually will not pay for a similar project, although in this instance due to safety concerns they are “prepared to contribute 50 percent of cost,” Schlosser said.
Mike Lerner, a Bear Valley Springs resident, asked if these improvements would qualify to stop train horns from sounding in the downtown area.
“I know there have been a lot of people that objected to these trains and horns at night,” Lerner said.
Schlosser said the implementation of quiet crossings has been addressed multiple times with Union Pacific, but the area doesn’t qualify because federal guidelines can’t be met. The requirement to have safe distances before crossings is not feasible, due to railroad's proximity to Tehachapi Boulevard.
The U.S. Department of Transportation lists requirements for a city to establish a quiet zone. The area is required to have one public highway rail grade crossing and be a half-mile in length, and be equipped with the standard and conventional automatic warning devices. Communities have the option to establish quiet zones from 10 p.m. to 7 a.m. restricting the horn from sounding or have an alternative sound device warning.
The determination of quiet zones is made based on coordination with the railroad and city and on the “highway traffic volumes, train traffic volumes, the accident history and physical characteristics of the crossing,” according to fra.dot.gov.