Rantoul puts off vote on train quiet zone

RANTOUL — On second thought, the village has postponed a vote on whether to pay $20,000 for a train quiet zone study.

Mayor Chuck Smith asked the village board to put off a decision on the quiet-zone study until more information can be gathered and the public has a chance to voice its opinion. It was removed from this week's board agenda.

"I think there's some (information) that we didn't get in advance," Smith said. "I want to make sure the public is fully informed as to the benefits of this program.

"The public has concerns both positively and negatively. I wanted to address that in an open format."

The village board will vote on whether to hire Baxter & Woodrum Consulting Engineers to conduct the study.

A quiet zone is a section of rail line of at least one-half mile that contains one or more consecutive public highway-rail grade crossings at which locomotive horns are not routinely sounded when trains are approaching the crossings.

There are seven at-grade rail crossings that would be affected at Rantoul.

The village must weigh the benefit of not having to hear blaring train horns all hours of the day against the safety factor.

The board did hear from one resident who said passage of a quiet zone can be a benefit to the community.

Jim Nelson said his daughter lives in Elburn, a far-west Chicago suburb that has established a quiet zone.

"It made a significant difference in that community," Nelson said. "The opportunity (to establish a quiet zone) is not something that's necessary inexpensive to do, but if you can have the public safety with the right kind of crossings ... and make the community a better place to live ... there's a certain aesthetic value that comes from not having the train horns blowing at all times of the day or night."

Nelson said Rantoul is not a large community, so residents in about every area of town hear the train horns.

Smith said Wednesday he believes $20,000 "is very cheap for a study of this magnitude."

"I think what's going to be brought out in this whole process, if we're able to eliminate the noise factors, it will actually drive the property values up. It would make homes more marketable."

The safety factor, however, must be considered, Smith said.

"That's why we would have to get approval from the state and the railroad."

Dave Hinton is editor of the Rantoul Press, a News-Gazette community newspaper. For more, visit rantoulpress.com.

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