Burlington Northern Sante Fe crossing at Virginia Street

A train crosses Virginia Street in downtown Sioux City. The city approved a consultation agreement Monday to develop and expand a train "quiet zone" in the area. 

SIOUX CITY — In the near future, downtown Sioux City is going to be a little less noisy.

At Monday’s regular Sioux City Council meeting, the council approved a $111,015 contract with SRF Consulting Group Inc. of the Twin Cities to design a “quiet zone” spanning the BNSF Railway train crossings at Jackson, Virginia, Court and Iowa streets downtown.

A quiet zone is an area of railroad track where, when certain safety guidelines are met, trains can pass through a crossing without sounding their horns. According to federal regulations, trains must typically sound their horns 15 to 20 seconds in advance of a crossing.

All city officials were highly supportive of the idea of an expanded quiet zone downtown — seven years ago the city successfully established another quiet zone extending from Pearl to Jackson streets. However, the measure passed with only a 4-1 vote.

The dissenting vote came from Mayor Bob Scott, who voted against the project mostly as a gesture to show his dissatisfaction that a six-digit contract was being awarded to an out-of-state firm instead of a local company.

 “My concern today is that we continue to not look at local — even Iowa — engineering firms to do that type of work," he said after the meeting.

“I think that’s wrong and I think we should. We have a policy here that you ask the price, you put the scope down and then you negotiate the contract. It’s not Jill’s fault; nobody explained that to her.”

Jill Wanderscheid is the city’s neighborhood services manager and is overseeing the quiet zone project. When Scott originally raised the point during the meeting, Wanderscheid acknowledged that the mayor was correct and said she would follow protocol in the future.

Sioux City’s downtown housing marking is on the upswing, which is the impetus for the downtown quiet zone. For example, Ho-Chunk Inc.’s Virginia Square development is just south of the Virginia Street rail crossing.

“When you have a lot of downtown housing, the benefit is they don’t blow the whistle as they go through town,” Scott said.

While Scott likes the idea of more quiet zones in downtown, he would also like the city to work toward putting them in other areas of town where there is a heavy residential population.

“We always worry about downtown, but we never worry about Leeds,” he said. “Trust me, I laid in the bed the other night at four o’clock in the morning I heard those horns going off on those trains.

"I want a comprehensive quiet zone in this community. It’s not fair that we look at one part of the town and the rest of the town has to live with those kinds of sounds. Let’s make sure we are looking at all areas of the community.”

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Business reporter

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