The Village of Mokena hopes to implement a federally granted quiet zone designation by the end of the year. The designation would silence whistles on trains passing through the village.
In order to gain federal approval, the village is required to make safety adjustments to several local roads, as well as to the downtown Mokena Metra station, according to village assistant administrator Kirk Zoellner.
“Obviously, we’d like to have the quiet zone in place as soon as we can,” said Paul Pearson, village engineer.
A federally designated quiet zone specifies that train horns must be silenced at all times when trains are passing through the designated area, unless the conductor sees a potential safety risk on the tracks.
The village has been investigating the possibility of a quiet zone designation for years. According to Zoellner, a feasibility study was conducted immediately prior to the recession that explored the specifics of what adjustments the village would need to make to meet federal quiet zone criteria. Research determined that the village could meet the criteria, but that several improvements would be required first.
In the years following the research, road maintenance took precedence over quiet zone designation improvements.
Recently, the village has received increasing inquiries about silencing the train whistles, particularly following the implementation of a quiet zone designation in Orland Park approximately 18 months ago, said Zoellner.
Two types of trains pass through Mokena several times daily — Metra commuter trains and freight trains. Due to the frequency of Metra trains during the day, freights trains, which tend to blow their whistles louder and for longer periods of time, are more likely to come through Mokena overnight. Zoellner said many of the citizen complaints the village receives concern the 4 a.m. freighter.
In spring 2012, the village received grant funding from the office of State Rep. Renée Kosel through the Department of Commerce and Economic Opportunity. The $92,000 grant will cover the cost of all quiet zone designation improvements.
These safety adjustments include the addition of a concrete median to Wolf Road, which has already been completed. Flexible delineators will be added to La Porte Road, Mokena Street and Schoolhouse Road. The delineators prevent cars from weaving around a train barrier when the barrier is down and a train is crossing the road.
Unanticipated adjustments also must be made to the Metra station in downtown Mokena. The village is currently in the process of consulting with various government agencies to determine what these adjustments will entail.
After the Metra station adjustments are complete, the village will begin adding the delineators to La Porte Road, Mokena Street and Schoolhouse Road.
“The safety of our commuters is obviously our top priority,” said Zoellner.
The village initially estimated the improvements would be completed at an earlier date, but Zoellner now hopes everything will be finished by the end of the year.
Once all necessary adjustments have been made, the village will file a notice of establishment with the Federal Railroad Administration. The village will receive word regarding the designation following a minimum 21-day waiting period.
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