SunRail: $13M 'quiet zones' project will make crossings safer

By John W. Davis, Reporter
Last Updated: Wednesday, April 19, 2017, 5:57 PM EDT

"Quiet zones" are coming to dozens of SunRail crossings in Seminole, Orange and Osceola counties.

  • SunRail 'quiet zones' coming to 44 train crossings
  • Areas will reduce train horns, make crossings safer, FDOT says
  • Project will cost $13M over 2.5 years

The project is about more than trains not blowing their horns. It's a multi-year project that officials say will make train crossings safer.

The Florida Department of Transportation will spend $13 million to upgrade 44 crossings to quiet zones, the SunRail Commission decided Wednesday at MetroPlan Orlando. About $4 million will come from local funding partners; the remaining $9 million will come from the state of Florida.

Linda Gailor rides SunRail Monday through Friday to get to work. She also lives near the tracks in Longwood.

"I've actually seen people pull right up to the tracks here, and the SunRail has had to stop because they were right up to it. So if they touch, that might actually help," Gailor said.

However, just because crossings are upgraded to quiet zones such as the one already installed near Florida Hospital in Orlando doesn't mean train conductors can't blow horns for emergencies.

"The engineer does have discretion, in situations where their might be a safety issue or pedestrian issue, that they can still sound the horns in those quiet zones," FDOT spokesman Steve Olson said. "But they're designed to quiet things down, so the horn is not sounding so much, and the gates are doing some of safety work that needed to be done."

Gailor depends on SunRail, which is why she's all for any improvements that could lower the number of accidents and delays.

"I need to get to work by a certain time, and I barely get there now riding the first train in the morning. I don't want it delayed at all," Gailor said.

After the final contract is signed, FDOT will begin construction on quiet zones this summer.

Quiet zones will be upgraded at the same time as other general construction and improvement projects.

The initiative will take about two and half years to upgrade 44 crossings in the following cities and counties:

  • Seminole County
  • Maitland
  • Winter Park
  • City of Orlando
  • Orange County
  • Edgewood
  • Kissimmee

"Anything to make it safer," Gailor said.