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Quiet rail crossings reconsidered

It's back to Plan A for quiet railroad crossings in Hamburg.

A proposal to install four gates at two crossings was dropped after the railroads said it would cost more than $2 million to install.

Now town officials are working on a plan first proposed in 2005: installing medians near the crossings to make it difficult for drivers to get around lowered gates at crossings on Cloverbank and Rogers roads.

It fits the budget, and it could be in place within a year, said Town Engineer Gerard M. Kapsiak.

While residents bought their homes knowing the railroads were in the vicinity, the train traffic has increased to about 80 trains a day, according to the most recent figures supplied to the town.

The town has $525,000 in state and federal funding to pay for changes at the two crossings to create a 4.3-mile long quiet zone through the town.

Federal rules require trains sound their horns as they approach an at-grade crossing to alert motorists and pedestrians a train is approaching unless certain safety measures are in place.

"Quiet crossings," where train horns are not used, can be created by preventing motorists from driving around lowered gates.

The town would install a three-foot wide concrete median in the center of the road for about 100 feet on each side of the approaches to the crossings. A divider section with reflective channeling devices would be placed on top of the median. The town also would have to widen the existing pavement slightly in the two areas.

"We feel that can be done within the $525,000 we have available," Kapsiak said.

The last plan the town had involved placing four -- instead of two -- gates around each crossing. The gates would have been installed by CSX and Norfolk Southern railroads. The railroads said it would cost them $2.2 million to design and install the gates, considerably more than is available through the grants.

Kapsiak said he recently presented the latest plan to Erie County, which owns Rogers Road. County and town snowplow crews had been concerned the devices would interfere with snowplows. But the concrete medians would be designed to protect the delineators.

The medians and delineators could be driven over in an emergency. The delineators are spring-loaded, which allows them to deflect down, remain intact, and return to their original upright position, Kapsiak said.