‘Quiet zones’ now in effect at Kissimmee railroad crossings

 Train traffic may get a little quieter in Kissimmee now that at least 10 “quiet zones” are in place at railroad crossings across the city.

A quiet zone is an area near a rail crossing where engineers don’t have to use train horns as part of normal operations. The goal is to modify crossings to be as safe or safer than they were when horns were in use.

There are about 3,500 quiet zone crossings in 42 states, but it can take years and millions of dollars to implement them due to strict state and federal safety regulations. Cities in Orange and Seminole counties – along with the city of Kissimmee – have been working to get these quieter crossings in place for a while.

Orlando isn’t expected to wrap up its projects for at least another year, but the hush-hush work is nearly done in Kissimmee. The city received a matching grant from the Florida Department of Transportation two years ago totaling $429,760 to make quiet zone upgrades at 11 railroad crossings along a 2.6 mile stretch within city limits.

Some of these improvements included double barricades so vehicles can’t maneuver around railroad guards when a train is approaching and sidewalk modifications to increase track visibility for pedestrians.

It also meant additional lights, signs and barriers, and building curbs and concrete islands.

Many of these quiet zone changes were made alongside other roadwork projects and as tracks were being laid in anticipation of SunRail, which expanded to Osceola County on July 30. 

By making these upgrades, all trains – including SunRail, Amtrak and freight trains – are no longer required to blow their horns when approaching tracks along the two-in-a-half mile route unless there is a safety concern.

Nearly all of the city’s new safety crossings meet quiet zone requirements now. The only one left is at Donegan Avenue – and that’s because part of the property is a county-owned right of way.

“That one should be coming along soon, though,” said Craig Holland, director of the Kissimmee Community Redevelopment Agency and Development Services with the city. “Some logistical stuff has to happen and then it should be good to go.”

Mosaic, a downtown redevelopment project, and other higher-end residential housing in close proximately to the tracks, are another reason Kissimmee sought quiet zone crossings and funding.

 “Safety is our number one concern, but if it also makes the area quieter and nicer for residents at night, then that’s a win-win for us,” Holland said.