RATHDRUM - Rathdrum residents are a step closer to getting a "quiet zone" that would eliminate the train whistle at Mill Street, the city's lone at-grade railroad crossing.
"The horn is very boisterous and very annoying," said Kevin Jump, the city's engineer. "You hear it five to 10 times per day."
The City Council has approved moving ahead with an agreement with BNSF Railway to construct a 6-inch high center median at the approaches of the crossing as a safety improvement in lieu of the train whistle in advance of the intersection.
The median is intended to persuade traffic from driving around the crossing arms and therefore enhance safety.
Jump said the improvement doesn't imply drivers have been risky in the past and driving around the arms.
"It's just if you take away the notification of the horn, you've got to add another safety feature to compensate for the loss of it," Jump said, adding that the crossing arms will remain in place.
Jump said he expects the medians, estimated to cost between $30,000 and $40,000, to be constructed this summer, possibly in June, and take about a month to build. It will be paid for with the city's street maintenance fund.
However, the agreement still needs BNSF Railway's approval. The council also wants to make sure that the federal Bridging the Valley project, which would eliminate the crossing altogether, will not happen in the near future before money is spent on the medians.
"I've been here two years and there's been no activity with Bridging the Valley," Jump said. "There's no such thing as a fast-moving federal aid project."
Still, Jump said staff will check on the status of that project and report what they find at next month's council meeting.
"The council wants to keep the ball rolling on this and get in the position to build," Jump said.
Jump said he believes the medians would be justified if the crossing is not eliminated in the next five years.
One lane of Mill Street will be closed during construction. The crossing is between Main Street and Highway 53.
With school being out, the project should have less impact on traffic than other times, Jump said.
In another Rathdrum street project, Jump said he expects construction on improvements to the intersection of Wright Street and Highway 41 will start late summer.
The project will add left-turn lanes in both directions on Highway 41 and to the approaches onto Highway 41. It will also add curb ramps, improving pedestrian movement at the intersection.
The $500,000 project will be administered by the Idaho Transportation Department. It will be funded mostly with federal dollars with a 7.5 percent local match.