With windows open on warm summer nights, more people are noticing train horns. Several recent reader notes led us to check on the status of the “quiet zone” that’s part of the Terminal 5 modernization project – and while we were working on it, a mini-briefing turned up as part of a T-5 update at the District 1 Community Network‘s July meeting (WSB coverage here). The “quiet zone” is a package of crossing-safety improvements aimed at making it less likely that train operators will have to sound their horns at crossings along a six-tenths-of-a-mile stretch of track between T-5 and Riverside Mill.
The port’s project manager Curtis Stahlecker talked about it at D1CN’s meeting last week, and brought the rendering shown above. The track will have fencing on both sides, and two of the five current crossings in the “quiet zone” will be permanently closed, he said. Changes to the three remaining crossings include that #1 will be gated, and only pedestrians will be allowed to cross it; #5 will be a private, one-way-only crossing. Stahlecker was careful to remind everyone that train horns won’t be prohibited in the “quiet zone”; it’s hoped the changes will render them unnecessary, but if operators think they need to sund horns, they will still be able to.
Now the question is – how soon will the “quiet zone” be ready? At one point, it was expected to be ready before T-5’s first berth opened. That didn’t happen. Then back in February, SDOT told the West Seattle Transportation Coalition that the project would start after the West Seattle Bridge reopened. Just a few months before that, a port contingent had told HPAC it was expected to be ready in early 2023. But now it’s looking like construction will have barely begun by then, according to SDOT spokesperson Mariam Ali‘s reply when we asked for a status report (SDOT is responsible for getting the “quiet zone” built):
The project is currently at 95 percent design and expected to reach 100 percent this summer. The project team is finalizing design comments related to the rail crossing, which requires communication and approval from partner agencies, including the Port and BNSF. The project is estimated to advertise early this fall and issue notice to proceed for construction before the end of the year.
One more important reminder, the “quiet zone” won’t address all local train noise – it’s aimed at Terminal 5 rail traffic; trains you hear in our area may also be serving other facilities, such as industrial businesses along the Duwamish River. But this is the most progress that has been made in efforts related to reducing train noise, which date back many years (we first wrote about one community effort in 2008).