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Railroad group OKs proposal, 'quiet zone' part of solution

Rock Hill's Railroad Study Group has nailed down a proposal which members hope to present to the City Council in early August.

The study group - made up of Rock Hill and York County council members, city staff, business people and neighborhood representatives - formed in August to develop solutions to railroad crossing safety for Norfolk Southern's trains, implementing railroad "quiet zones" within the city and reducing downtown train blockages.

In a meeting Tuesday night at City Hall, members voted to move forward with a plan, which includes the following changes for an industrial mill neighborhood northeast of Rock Hill's downtown business district:

Eliminating Mill Street's dangerous "hump" crossing;

Adding two railroad side tracks and moving a switch closer to Quantz Street;

Extending Quantz Street over the railroad tracks; and

Realigning Curtis, Community and Church streets.

This stretch of track was also thought to qualify as a "quiet zone," in which train engineers wouldn't blow their horns while approaching interactions.

Some funding already has been secured, in the form of a federal air-quality grant, and more sources have been noted.

In a May 31 meeting, members of the group wanted clarification on several things, including how certain they were on receiving approval for quiet zones.

Bill Meyer, city planning and development director, said there's no reason it shouldn't be approved.

Leslie Moma, representing the Aragon Mill neighborhood, said she likes the idea of trying to extend the quiet zone to White and Main streets because the "benefit of a neighborhood could be a benefit of downtown."

Josh Gray, representing the Industrial Mill neighborhood, agreed, saying they should pursue designating whatever zones as much as funds will allow.

The space allotted for proposed landscaping to block views of trains will be a tighter fit than originally thought, but that is usually desired in landscaping used as screening , a handout from the meeting states.

Various types of foliage and shrubbery could be used for the landscaping, such as the Chinese pistache tree. That type of tree is known to work well in many soil conditions, a study group member pointed out.

The city would take responsibility for landscaping duties, according to the study group.

Members had also questioned how many cars a proposed sidetrack could hold.

Figures show if rail cars are at the longest length of 65 feet the sidetrack could hold 35 cars. More, if the cars are smaller.

It is estimated the sidetrack will reduce the number of blockages on Main Street by 87 percent and 84 percent on White Street.

"The use of sidetracks will reduce the time for pick-ups and set-offs by staging the cars closer to the switch," according to a handout.

Gray said he didn't know if his neighborhood would view the plan as a complete win-win, but it was better than plans discussed previously.

The group will meet again in early August to form its presentation to the City Council.