City floats special district for train 'quiet zone'

Neighbors have option of paying to silence horns at three crossings

By Eric Florip, Columbian transportation & environment reporter

Published:

 

Public meeting

■ What: Informational meeting on east Vancouver quiet zone.

■ When: 7 to 8:30 p.m. Wednesday, Feb. 6.

■ Where: Water Resources Education Center, 4600 S.E. Columbia Way.

■ More information:cityofvancouver.us/trainhorns.

The city of Vancouver is asking residents of its east end if they support paying to silence train horns in their neighborhood.

City officials, working with neighborhood leaders, floated the proposal as a way to pay for the required railroad crossing improvements that come with a "quiet zone." It would create a Local Improvement District, in which each household would pay based on how close it sits to the railroad crossings between Southeast 139th Avenue and Southeast 164th Avenue.

The proposed district includes 467 properties in the East Old Evergreen Highway neighborhood, between the Columbia River and state Highway 14. Households would contribute based on a three-tiered system. Tier 1 homes -- those closest to the tracks -- would pay $177 per year; Tier 2 homes would pay $124 per year; and Tier 3 homes would chip in $53 annually for 20 years. Residents would also have the option of paying a one-time lump sum. Payment amounts would be flat, and not tied to property values.

"The idea is that everybody that benefits pays part of the cost," said city public works spokeswoman Loretta Callahan.

The city has worked with neighbors, the Federal Railroad Administration and BNSF Railway for years looking for a way to silence train horns, and not just in east Vancouver. But bureaucratic hurdles and high costs have slowed progress.

Federal rules require trains to blast their horns before any public crossing. To establish a quiet zone, crossings need safety measures beyond the typical flashing lights and gates. The city doesn't have the money for such upgrades.

The east Vancouver Local Improvement District would raise about $818,000 for such safety features as new medians, extra lighting, signs and striping where the rails cross Southeast 139th, 147th and 164th avenues, said city project development director Matt Ransom.

The city sent a survey to residents in the area this month asking what they think of the proposal. An informational meeting is slated for Feb. 6.

The issue could land before the Vancouver City Council in March, Ransom said.


Eric Florip: 360-735-4541; http://twitter.com/col_enviro; eric.florip@columbian.com.