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Railroad crossings go ‘silent’

By Sara McManamy-Johnson sjohnson@lebanondemocrat.com • Dec 15, 2015 at 2:37 PM

Residents and drivers on Horn Springs Road and Old Horn Springs Road may have noticed a notable absence.

Effective last week, trains crossing those two roads no longer sound their horns.

The so-called “silent crossings” are among the first in Tennessee.

Mt. Juliet has the only other silent crossing in the state.

“The Hamilton Station apartments developers were the ones that wanted to do this,” said Jeff Baines, Lebanon’s commissioner of public works. “For them it was about, ‘Hey, we’ve got this nice new development, Hamilton Springs, Hamilton Station. It’s right by the railroad tracks. We don’t want our folks woken up every morning by the train.’”

Federal law requires train engineers to sound their horns whenever they approach road crossings, but it also allows municipalities to implement “quiet zones” in which train engineers do not sound their horns.

“From the federal government side of things, it trickles down to us to do the things to make sure it’s also safe,” said Baines. “There’s a lot of hoops to go through before they’ll say it’s okay.”

Among the biggest issues is ensuring drivers can’t simply drive around the railroad crossing bars.

“There’s a gap there, and people will just whip around them,” said Baines. “With these silent crossings, you’ve got to create the situation where you can’t just shift around and slide through there.”

To prevent that, crews installed posts separating the lanes leading up to the crossing.

According to Baines, the Hamilton Station developers paid for all the improvements related to the silent crossings.

“It didn’t cost the local taxpayers anything,” said Baines.

He said, though, he could see it eventually being done at other crossings in the city.

“I think as funds are available, we’d like to see it grow,” said Baines.

Given the cost, however, it wouldn’t likely be high on the list of priorities.

“They can be up in the five- and six-figure dollars,” said Baines. “Although it would be nice to have, it’s probably going to fall down on the priority list; it’s not going to be in the top five for the city council.

“Could it be done and us see it happen in the future? Yeah, I could see it happen someday. Especially if you get more frequent trains running, I think you’ll see more,” said Baines.

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