OGDEN, Iowa—The Ogden City Council took formal action this week to enter into a contract with Bolton & Menk Engineering firm to begin the formal design of railroad crossings that would help the city qualify to become a “Quiet Zone” meaning standards have been met that would allow railroad engineers to pass through the town without sounding their train horns. City Administrator Donovan Olson was directed by the Council last month to investigate funding sources. The work by Bolton & Menk has so far put together a concept for the “Quiet Zone” with the most recent price of about $266,000. That would include construction, engineering and permitting costs. By approving the contract with Bolton & Menk, the Council has asked for plans that can be presented to the Federal Railroad Authority. The FRA will be the agency that will make the final determination on a “Quiet Zone”.
Among the concerns generated by “Quiet Zones” will be the construction of medians that could inhibit traffic, and in particular truck traffic. The scale located near the tracks is owned by John Hunter and is used as a business that will suffer because of the project. Olson has emphasized that many of the crossings would be widened to allow for a better turning radius which should help the county shed, the bus barn and other ag related traffic.
Council members were told this week that there are a combination of funding possibilities. There are safety grants available through the Iowa DOT, but they are competitive and it doesn’t seem likely that the city would be able to qualify for enough funding. There is the Safe Routes to Schools program that could possibly provide enough funding for work on the sidewalks at the crossings. Olson says there are also local grants and funding sources that may help provide some matching funding. He said the city’s Road Use Tax is to limited and would mean other street projects would have to be eliminated and the general fund is also a limited source of funding. The best opportunity is through the city’s share of the Local Option Sales Tax. Olson says a portion of the tax is included in the budget to fund depreciation accounts, used for capital purchases such as the new fire truck, police cars and so on. Olson told the Council that the balance, plus a reserve account of $125,000 could be directed for use on a project.
While Bolton & Menk puts together a formal design and works out some of the particulars for truck turning, there are some residents that wonder why the Council doesn’t do a vote on the project. Olson says an opinion poll question can not be included in an election and if one was worded to be included, it could create additional problems. He told the Council that if a favorable vote was received, the Council would not be able to drop the project if an unforseen circumstance was to arrive.