OCEANSIDE — Mayor Jim Wood asked fellow City Council members to make a railroad quiet zone a priority while the city has an extra $5.6 million in its pocket from the Laguna Vista mobile home park sale and another $1 million in budget surplus.
Wood requested a chunk of the $6.6 million be set aside to fund needed railroad crossing improvements on Aug. 7.
City Council previously earmarked $650,000 from the mobile home park sale for beach sand replenishment and $3 million to renovate beach restrooms before the $1 million budget surplus was discovered.
The remaining undesignated $2.9 million would pay for most of the upgrades needed at five railroad crossings to form a quiet zone. The current estimated project cost is $3 million to $5 million.
Wood said a quiet zone would benefit the city’s tourism industry, downtown hotels and residents who live near the tracks.
“It’s a money issue,” Wood said. “I get complaints almost every day.”
Wood said Marriott SpringHill Suites, set to open in January 2014, is just 15 feet from the coastal downtown tracks.
Others added hotel guests at the Wyndham Oceanside Pier Resort, a block west of the tracks, complain about being woken up two to three times a night by the train.
The city has been working with five different railroad and transportation agencies to determine what railroad crossing improvements are required to establish a quiet zone.
Oceanside funded diagnostic studies in 2006 and 2007 to determine the feasibility and cost of a quiet zone.
During that time the agencies involved have helped fund some of the needed improvements.
City funds have been set aside in this year’s budget for a required updated diagnostic study.
“As time progresses, there is more consensus on what improvements are required,” Scott Smith, city engineer, said. “All current players are involved.”
City Manager Peter Weiss said it would be prudent to set aside money to make the needed upgrades.
“Now is the time to set little chunks of money aside,” Weiss said.
Downtown business owners who voted no in a poll on funding a quiet zone several years ago, when the estimated improvements cost was $9 million, said the lower cost of $3 million would be easier to share.
Wood added that rail lines would be double tracked by 2030 with twice as many trains traveling through town.
That would bring train travel to 76 trips a day along with a horn blast at every crossing.
“Every single city along the beach wants it (a quiet zone),” Wood said.
Councilman Jerry Kern said he is not on board with the idea of setting aside money now.
He said that it would be more practical to make a quiet zone a priority in the 2014-2015 budget after stakeholders had reached an agreement on what improvements are needed.
“We don’t have costs, we don’t have a timeline, we don’t have a budget we can approve,” Kern said.
Wood withdrew his request. There was no vote on the item.