Shhh. City council moves full steam ahead on quiet zone
Claremont is moving forward with the possibility of implementing a quiet zone, appropriating over $48,000 toward a feasibility study during the city council meeting Tuesday night.
The council voted 3-0 to approve the deal with City of Industry-based JMDiaz, Inc. to look into implementing a quiet zone along railroad tracks that bisect the city. The vote comes a few months after a subcommittee was formed to assess the train horn noise that has been plaguing Claremonters.
“The study will analyze the improvements that will be needed at our Claremont intersections and the railroad crossings to meet the requirements for the establishment or potential establishments of a quiet zone,” City Engineer Loretta Mustafa said.
Those safety requirements include installing quad-gates at every intersection that would cut back on train and car accidents should a quiet zone be established. The passing of Measure M could work toward this goal, as Metro has noted that they intend to install quad gates at every Gold Line crossing when the extension is built through Claremont.
Approximately $44,484 of the total cost will go toward the study, with a ten percent contingency fee of $4,448 added, for a grand total of $48,932, according to Ms. Mustafa.
JMDiaz’s scope of work would include collecting data regarding existing conditions at the crossings, determining the quiet zone risk index, drafting conceptual plans and estimating the potential implementation cost.
The entire feasibility study should take three months to complete.
“By January 2017, we’ll have some better idea in terms of what we’re looking at for the quiet zone,” Ms. Mustafa said.
Ms. Mustafa also noted that following the feasibility study the city will meet with the Federal Railroad Administration (FRA), the Public Utilities Commission (PUC) and Metrolink to look into further improvements along the railroad tracks.
The approval of the study comes less than a week after Mayor Sam Pedroza and City Manager Tony Ramos traveled to Washington, DC in part to lobby the FRA into changing the federal train horn rule. The rule is up for review and open to public comment, and Mr. Pedroza and Mr. Ramos followed up on a letter sent by the city to the FRA.
The letter, sent July 5, objected to the cost of creating a quiet zone (estimated at $1.2 million per crossing), the minimum and maximum decibel horn levels and the current horn sounding pattern of two long, one short and one long.
The city also called into question the high amount of train horn regulations in the United States compared to the lack of regulations in Europe, Mr. Ramos said.
In a phone interview Monday, Mr. Pedroza said he felt confident about the meeting with the FRA, noting that Claremont would be working in tandem with the San Gabriel Valley Council of Governments to apply for grants toward a quiet zone. He cited the problem of loud train noises as a region-wide concern, not just centered on Claremont.
“I think we were able to make a strong impression from the municipality’s viewpoint on the impact of the train horn rule,” Mr. Pedroza said. “I’m really glad we were able to get there.”
During the city council meeting, Mr. Pedroza noted that the feasibility study should have a paramount focus on safety.
“I think one of the things we kept hearing in DC was that it’s not all about quiet zones. The emphasis is also on having the intersections be safer, and not having horns should not preclude any of the safety features,” Mr. Pedroza said.
Both Ms. Mustafa and Mr. Ramos noted that the feasibility study would look at the implementation of quiet zones through the lens of safety.
The recommendation passed, 3-0. Councilmembers Larry Schroeder and Opanyi Nasiali were absent from the council meeting.
Off to Washington, DC
In addition to meeting with the FRA regarding the train horn rule, Mr. Pedroza and Mr. Ramos also met with a number of federal officials with respect to a few more issues pertaining to Claremont.
Mr. Pedroza and Mr. Ramos held meetings on issues such as applying for police station resource grants for soft costs, such as furniture and technology, ahead of the upcoming police station ballot measure; challenging the Environmental Protection Agency’s Municipal Separate Storm Sewer Systems (MS4) compliance standards; a navigation of the upcoming transition by the Claremont Police Department from T-Band radio spectrum by 2023; and additional resources for the city’s Community Development Block Grant Program.
In all, they met with 37 officials across many different departments, including the Department of Justice’s COPS Program, the Federal Communications Division, representatives from Senators Barbara Boxer and Dianne Feinstein and Congresswoman Judy Chu.
Claremont PD news
The council meeting kicked off with an introduction of a new Claremont police officer. Officer Jeff Becker was formally introduced by Claremont Police Chief Paul Cooper.
Mr. Becker, 29, comes to Claremont from the LAPD, where he was a lateral officer and received training in the Wilshire Division, Chief Cooper said. Mr. Becker spent three years in the Navy, an additional three years in Europe, studied theology and is also a pastor at his church.
“I’m very excited to work with the city and keep you guys safe,” Mr. Becker said. “I hope to see you out there and wave to you guys.”
The council also saw two seasoned Claremont officers receive promotions. Hector Tamayo, formerly a corporal, was promoted to sergeant and Brian Thompson, formerly an officer, was promoted to corporal.
Both officers took the oath on the council floor.
Museum concerns abound
The specter of the recently-approved Pomona College Museum of Art loomed over the public comment period of the council meeting, as resident Ellen Taylor urged the council to look into the purported use of the facility.
“We have found out that that building that has basically been approved is not going to be an art building,” Ms. Taylor said. “It is going to be an administration building, and the representatives of the architects have said that because it’s going to be a college administration building, it does not have to be an iconic building.”
Ms. Taylor suggested the council rethink the approval of the museum, calling the issue “duplicitous.”
The next city council meeting will be on October 11.