Ffith avenue railroad crossing

Traffic crosses the Union Pacific railroad at Fifth Avenue before 7 a.m. today. The Kearney City Council on Tuesday approved up to $98,510 in safety enhancements so trains can pass through the crossing without blasting their horns. Residents of the neighborhood requested the creation of a quiet zone.

Although the council members OK’d the quiet zone for the Fifth Avenue crossing, they decided against a quiet zone for the Central Avenue crossing in downtown Kearney.

KEARNEY — The Kearney City Council on Tuesday voted 5-0 to silence the horns at the Fifth Avenue crossing of the Union Pacific Railroad.

“Fifth Avenue is very loud,” Councilman Jonathan Nikkila said about his experiences with crossing horns while he lived in the Fifth Avenue neighborhood.

He said sometimes the horns would blast in the middle of the night and continue blowing until someone shut them off.

In voting to create a quiet zone at the residential crossing, the council approved structural improvements to the crossing that will boost its safety, including eight-inch tall curbs to keep vehicles in the correct lanes when they approach the crossing. According to engineers, that work will cost from $73,240 to $98,510.

Locomotive engineers still will have the option to sound their horns while approaching and passing through the Fifth Avenue crossing when pedestrians, vehicles or animals are in their path, said Rod Wiederspan, director of public works. He explained the process of studying whether Kearney’s two at-grade crossings — Fifth Avenue and Central Avenue — could be adapted as quiet zones.

Silencing horns at Central Avenue would be costly, Wiederspan said. Engineers estimated adding necessary safety devices and an eight-inch curb to that downtown crossing would cost from $164,400 to $268,500.

Councilwoman Tami James Moore said owners of a nearby coffee house support silencing the horns at Central Avenue, but other council members said they would support the Fifth Avenue plan. If Fifth Avenue works out, and if costs come down, then changing Central Avenue might become feasible in the future.

Wiederspan didn’t give a time line for completing the changes to Fifth Avenue, but said a 21-day notification period would begin after the improvements are complete.