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County to repair roads for quiet zones in Hamburg

Erie County is poised to spend nearly $1 million on repairing sections of two roads in the Town of Hamburg where railroad quiet zones would be established.

The county and town last month came to an agreement that will have the town taking over a total of about two miles on Pleasant Avenue and Lakeview Road for the quiet zones. Part of the agreement requires Erie County to upgrade the roads before turning them over to the town.

Quiet zones are federally regulated railroad crossings where trains do not blow their whistle as normally required, because of safety measures put in place. Hamburg plans to set up center medians that prevent vehicles from driving around a lowered railroad gate.

Town officials had been negotiating with county officials, since Pleasant and Lakeview are owned by Erie County. The town plans to establish a quiet zone at the railroad crossing on town-owned Bayview Road, too. Last year, quiet zones were erected on Rogers and Cloverbank roads.

Erie County does not want the zones on its roads.

“The whole driving factor behind this is liability and ease of maintenance,” said Erie County Public Works Commissioner John Loffredo.

If an accident occurs on that section of the road, “no matter what, the owner of that road would be sued,” he said.

He also said Erie County plows are too large to efficiently plow the road with the center median dividers in place. The medians in the quiet zones on Rogers and Cloverbank roads survived plowing by Hamburg crews last winter.

“It’s very difficult to plow that road with our equipment,” Loffredo said. “With our plows, it’s like threading the eye of a needle.”

Loffredo said attorneys from Erie County and Hamburg are ironing out the details on the memorandum of understanding approved by the two sides. As soon as it is signed, the county is ready to put the work on its schedule for this year, if the agreement gets signed soon, he said.

The zones are still being designed, and the town expects they could be established next year if the necessary federal, state and railroad approvals are obtained.

“They’re still on schedule for bid letting in January,” said Richard Lardo of Hamburg’s Engineering Department.

Loffredo said the county has been cooperating with the town, and even put money in this year’s budget for the work.

“To put a million aside for something like this, with all the issues we have to deal with, shows a good-faith effort on our side,” Loffredo said.