City makes more progress on Quiet Crossings

HASTINGS, Neb. - (KSNB) The city of Hastings is making more progress in bringing Quiet Crossings to the downtown area.

People with the city of Hastings and the state conducted a diagnostic review of ten crossings downtown to see if they meet certain standards for quiet crossings. (Source: Kelsey Dickeson, KSNB)

People with the city, Nebraska Department of Transportation and Federal Railroad Administration evaluated ten crossings Thursday for a diagnostic review. They include Marian Road, South Street, Lincoln, Laird, Hastings, Denver, Colorado, Pine, California and Elm Avenues.

An inspector with the FRA evaluated each railroad crossing individually to see if they met certain standards based on design and safety to become a quiet crossing.

Most of the crossings checked the right boxes. The Quiet Crossings Committee is also in the process of looking at design plans to fix any issues.

"We want to work with the neighborhoods to make sure we're doing what they need," said Corey Stutte, Hastings mayor. "I think a lot of the downtown businesses are interested in keeping the two-way streets, which means that we'd put medians in downtown before the crossings. Those are some of the things we'll be working out and talking about as a Quiet Crossing Committee."

Stutte said the diagnostic review is the first step to construction, with a long road ahead.

The next step is for the committee to send an intent of notice to BNSF. The railroad then has 60 days to comment.

Representatives from BNSF declined the city's invitation to attend the review session Thursday. The city needs the railroad's permission to do any work on the crossings. For any improvements the city decides on - and the railroad agrees to - BNSF will do the work and the city will pay for it.

"Really I think the biggest thing I think, for us, will be working with the railroad. We're going to have to get a conversation started with them and have an understanding of what we need to do to make this happen. So as we move forward with this notice of intent I think we're going to have a lot more information," Stutte said.

Stutte said they wanted to start with BNSF, because most of the crossings they want to be quiet zones are owned by them. There's one crossing owned by Union Pacific. Stutte said they'll plan a meeting with them later on.

Quiet Crossings is being funded with the half-cent city sales tax, which more than 80 percent of voters passed in 2017. Stutte said they have about $350,000 set aside for Quiet Crossings this year.

Stutte emphasized this is a project that could take several years. He said there's still some cost issues they're working out. Each crossing has total costs ranging from $60,000 to $500,000.