A proposed railroad quiet zone will move forward to the Onalaska Common Council next week after Mayor Joe Chilsen issued the tie-breaking vote at Tuesday night’s Public Works Committee meeting.

The quiet zone would affect the tracts immediately behind the Great River Landing near the Irvin Street crossing.

City Engineer Jarrod Holter said the city had pursued a quiet zone since 2006, and its first formal application was filed in 2013.

“That request was denied,” he said adding the city would have had to double the number of crossing gates to meet the minimum safety requirements for mandatory approval. This would have cost the city hundreds of thousands of dollars.

Holter said changes to traffic in the area, have improved the likelihood of the proposal getting approval from the National Railroad Administration.

“I think we have a fair chance of getting a quiet zone, but it’s not guaranteed,” he said. “This is one of those projects that would affect a lot of people. You can hear the train horn 10-12 blocks into the city.”

Holter said if approved by the council, engineering firm SEH would file the applications for the quiet zone on behalf of the city and begin surveying the area to determine the extent of improvements necessary, at a cost of $11,900.

Council member Ron Gjertsen said seeking a quiet zone didn’t make sense.

“Don’t like the railroad, don’t buy or build next to it,” he said.

Finance Director Fred Buehler agreed.

“The railroad is one area that does not deviate and we might be throwing dollars into something that isn’t going to happen,” he said.

Council member Harvey Bertrand said there were obvious pros and cons to a quiet zone.

“If we are able to do this safely, I think it would measurably improve the way of life, to allow them to get some piece and quiet,” he said.

The proposal passed three to two with Bertrand, Holter voting for and Gjertsen and Buehler voting against.

Chilsen, who issued the tie-breaking vote, said, “I want this debated at the council level.”

The common council will review the proposal at the next city council meeting on Tuesday.

“Don’t like the railroad, don’t buy or build next to it.” Ron Gjertsen,
Onalaska Council member

Coulee Courier reporter

Tobias Mann is a reporter with the River Valley Media Group. He can be reached at tobias.mann@lee.net or at 608-791-8216.

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