Monday, August 22, 2016

What you may not know: Week of August 22

The Appleton Common Council is back in action this week with a partial schedule of committee meetings, and one item that will likely dominate the conversation:

Municipal Services Committee, Tuesday, 6:30 pm

Months ago I mentioned that the city included funds in the 2016 budget for a look into the possibility of becoming a Railroad Quiet Zone and eliminating the loud train horns that can be heard in large portions of the city during the day and night. As you may have heard, our consultant has come back with their recommendations and this week the Municipal Services Committee will be asked for the first time to make a recommendation on their proposal.

This project required a full review of two dozen rail crossings in the city, and a review of the work that would be necessary to meet the minimum safety requirements to allow for trains to pass through without needing to sound their horns. At many crossings, the necessary work involves the installation of raised medians to prevent cars from going around the gates to cross the tracks. In one case, on Locust Street between College Avenue and Lawrence Street, the proposal does call for the closing of a street.

All told, the consultant's recommended series of improvements would cost around $785,000 and would have a pair of noticeable benefits:

  • The risk of train-related accidents at crossings in the city would be reduced around 14%, with a "risk index" decrease from 12,103 to 9777.
  • The entire train corridor through the city, from Prospect Avenue on the west end to Ballard Road on the east, would become a quiet zone.
For several districts in the central city, this is a pretty significant quality of life issue. While the trains are unlikely to ever be fully silent, eliminating train horns (especially during the overnight hours) should have a pretty significant impact on nearby residents and could result in an increase in property values down the road.

With that said, a proposed price tag of around $800,000 is also a significant expenditure and will likely generate a fair amount of discussion. I'm curious to see where this will go. The earliest this item could come before the full common council for a vote is Wednesday, September 7.

You can see agendas for all of this week's meetings and the full schedule at the city's Legistar page.

Keeping you informed on issues that may impact you around the city is one of my primary goals as an alderman. Good governance happens in the open, and I remain committed to raising awareness on the issues coming before us.

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