Tampa officials said today that they intend to contract with an engineering firm to develop a study about how to create a Train “quiet zone” along CSX tracks that run through Ybor City, downtown Tampa and the area around Port Tampa.
“As our urban area continues to densify, the train horns bounce off surrounding developments. They are becoming more of a nuisance to residents and potentially stifling economic opportunity,” said Mayor Bob Buckhorn in a statement. “This is the start of a process to mitigate those impacts and evaluate what needs to be done.”
What’s notable here is that while complaints to local media and the mayor have created the momentum to search for a possible answer to the early-morning train horns that play havoc with residents’ ability to sleep peacefully through the night, the “quiet zone” would include Ybor City and its northern neighborhood, V.M. Ybor.
In 2005 a Federal Railroad Administration rule exception called for allowing local agencies or communities to establish quiet zones at railroad crossings, which waive the railroad horn requirement if full-width crossing gates, flashing lights and other devices are installed.
Complaints about the CSX horns aren’t anything new. In fact, a Facebook page called Help Tampa Sleep was created over a year ago as a source of news about the potential for such “quiet zones.”
“It’s probably the biggest outside complaint about the neighborhood,” says Jeff Zampitella, President of the Skypoint Condominium Association located in downtown Tampa. In a blog post written more than two years ago, Zampitella alluded to the the combined population of residents living in Skypoint and the Element condos. “Our two towers alone place anywhere between 1200 to 1700 residents as little as a half of a city block away from the ear-splitting horn blowing at a frequency inversely proportional to the speed of the train.”
In June, Lakeland created the first quiet zone in Florida north of Miami when city officials worked with CSX to install two additional gates to stop drivers from trying to beat the train, allowing them to establish a horn-free zone.
The Tampa study will cost $90,545 and work with King Engineering Associates. They’ll look at approximately 65 CSX line crossings, which in order to silence the train horn will need to be upgraded to public highway rail grade crossings. The city’s press release goes on to say that “engineering team will assess what upgrades need to be made to each crossing area, which could include additional gating, street medians, and signage be installed, as well as potential costs for those upgrades.”
It’s expected to be completed in December.