Boulder County Transportation Department held an informational meeting May 14 at Niwot High School to update the public on the status of the Quiet Zone project along Highway 119 between Boulder and Longmont. Quiet zones are a system of warning signs and physical barriers (raised medians, quad gates, and channelizing devices) that fulfill the safety requirements of the Federal Railroad Administration (FRA) and eliminate the need for train engineers to sound horns as they approach each crossing.
To an audience of approximately 40 local residents, Matt Wempe, a planner with Boulder County Transportation, explained the implementation phases which will affect six railroad track crossings along the corridor between Independence Road near Boulder and Second Avenue in Niwot. Based on a series of assumptions, projections are that the earliest construction will be completed is late summer 2019.
The project is funded by a grant received from the Denver Regional Council of Governments ($1.4 million) and an additional $300,000 from Boulder County Transportation. This budget will cover all six crossing provided the design of each crossing is approved and there are no changes to the scope of the project.
Now in the design and approval stages, the most questionable design consents are the crossings at Monarch Road and at Niwot Road, because neither has the required minimum distance between Highway 119 and the railroad crossing which would allow for a median strip barrier design to be sufficient. Wempe said the county feels they have presented a good case to the FRA for approval because the highway is essentially a one-way road given the large distance between north and southbound lanes.
The design elements also require approval by the Colorado Public Utilities Commission, which is a more formal process than the FRA. Additionally, agreements will need to be reached with Burlington Northern Santa Fe (BNSF) railroad, because each crossing falls under its auspices.
When approvals are in place, construction may begin and expectations are that will occur in early 2019. Boulder County is responsible for all roadway construction elements and all gate arms are the responsibility of BNSF. The last phase of the project would be certification of the completed work by the FRA.
Because the project is subject to changes out of the county’s control, Boulder County staff points the public to their website for updates - www.bouldercounty.org/transportation/plans-and-projects/railroad-crossing-quiet-zones.