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Discord persists over Hamburg deal with Erie County on ‘quiet zones’

Hamburg officials continue to grumble about the deal with Erie County that will allow “quiet zones” to be established at two more railroad crossings in the town.

The county does not want quiet zones on its roads because of potential liability and difficulty in plowing, so the town has agreed to take ownership of parts of Pleasant Avenue and Lakeview Road around the railroad tracks.

But the two sides continue to disagree over how much of Pleasant that Hamburg was supposed to own. The Town Board said it had to change the agreement that it had already approved with the county to add about 450 yards to the length of road it will take over from the county.

Quiet zones are federally regulated railroad crossings where trains do not blow their whistles as normally required, because of other safety measures put in place. Those safety measures in Hamburg will include center medians that prevent vehicles from driving around a lowered railroad gate.

The crossing zone on Lakeview Road that Hamburg will take ownership to is 1.59 miles between Old Lake Shore Road and Versailles Road. The town also will take over 0.79 miles of Pleasant, from Lakeshore to Heltz Road.

The previous agreement said the section on Pleasant was 0.53 miles long and between Lakeshore and Versailles roads. Now it is 0.79 miles.

Supervisor Steven J. Walters said that at “no point” had the two sides agreed that the town would take over Pleasant up to Heltz. The endpoint had always been the shorter distance to Versailles, he said.

“I know that’s not a significant difference between the two, but I think this goes to show once again that this negotiation has not worked the way negotiations are supposed to work,” Walters said. “I’m not happy with the fact we are now asked to take over an additional length of road than what was agreed upon and what was approved by this Town Board.”

That’s not how the county sees it. It was always going to extend to Heltz, county spokesman Peter A. Anderson said in an email.

“The reason for the small extra distance is to satisfy quiet zone requirements of the Federal Railroad Administration which call for a minimum distance for any such zone,” he said, adding that if the zone ended at Versailles, it would fall below the minimum mandated distance.

Councilman Michael P. Quinn Jr. said he wasn’t too happy when he heard the county wanted the town to take more land.

“We did agree to something, and felt we were being held hostage; but this has dragged on long enough,” Quinn said.

Residents near Pleasant, Lakeview and Bayview roads have complained for years that it is difficult to live with the noise because more and more trains are using the tracks and blowing their horns. Bayview is owned by Hamburg, and will get a quiet zone.