If all goes according to a plan a village committee gave the consultant the go-ahead on Tuesday night, the trains coming through Tinley Park could be quieter by summer of 2012.
Tinley Park is working toward "quiet zone" status, meaning the trains won't be sounding their horns as they go through town unless it's an emergency. Great news for all people who live near the tracks but still enjoy sleep, but it's a long process that requires a lot of improvements to the six places the train tracks cross Tinley roads.
Why are more improvements needed?
The train sounding its horn is a safety feature. Taking away one safety feature means you have to replace it with another.
A lot of this is done by numbers. The risk assessment at each crossing goes up by 66 percent when you remove the horns. They have to bring that number back down somehow.
How will they bring that down?
The main problem is drivers trying to swerve around the crossing arms. You've seen the arms they're talking about -- usually one on each side blocking the oncoming traffic but leaving a big hole so a reckless driver could swerve around them.
One way to stop this is to have four arms instead of two (one on each corner of the crossing) so a driver determined to beat the train to the tracks can't swerve around the arms. But that would cost $600,000 per crossing.
A big one will be the cheaper "escape medians" at $80,000 per crossing.
They're medians that are high on one side and lower on the other. They're high on the side drivers are coming from, so they're less inclined to try to hop on the median to beat the train, but can easily drive off the lower side if they do get stuck in the crossing. North of a crossing the median would be higher on the west side and south of a crossing the median would be higher on the east side. Draw it out. It'll make sense.
Also on the menu are "flexible delineators," those plastic sticks that mark where not to cross but won't do your car any harm if you hit them. These are $10,000 a crossing.
The goal of the escape medians and flexible delineators are to deter people from entering the crossing but not trap people in there if they get stuck.
So what's going where?
At the six crossings:
- Escape medians and flexible delineators at 183rd Street, 80th Avenue and Central Avenue.
- Escape medians and flexible delineators only on the west side of 167th Street. They can't do it on the east because of Oak Forest Avenue.
- No change at the 66th Court and Oak Park Avenue crossings. There's too much around there to widen the road for any escape medians. But quiet zones work by averaging out the improvements made, so there's hope improvements at the other crossings will be enough to push the whole plan through.
Why do them all in one plan? Why not just the one by MY house?
It would be quicker to get one through than all six, right?
Wouldn't work. By law, you can only make one crossing a quiet zone if it's more than a quarter mile from the next crossing. In Tinley, that means 183rd Street is the only one that could be done as its own.
But that would hurt the others because 183rd is the best crossing. It already has escape medians and everything. So since they average out the crossings, taking the best one out of the picture makes it harder to bring the others up to snuff.
What about grant money to help pay for this?
The state's priority right now for train crossings is to help put safety features at crossings that have none, not upgrade existing features in rich suburban communities that just want a better night sleep.
"Anything with 'quiet zone' on it, we've been told, 'Don't bother applying for it,'" Jeff Pintar of consultant Robinson Engineering said.