Red tape slows SunRail quiet zones in Seminole

Seminole County is shelling out an extra $10,000 to a consultant working on quiet zones in the county, because it has run into changing demands from the federal and state government. Seminole county wants what are called quiet zones so that train horns will not blow in the county as trains move through. County Engineer Brett Blackadar explains things like higher curbs, and four crossing arms instead of two must be installed.

"There are a certain number of safety improvements that have to be made in order to meet the criteria of the Federal Railroad Administration."

Seminole County hired a consultant and paid them $50,000 to come up with a quiet zone plan, and that plan was even approved by the state. Blackadar says new federal rules though were instituted, and the plan was no longer valid.

"Basically they no longer allow any space more than one foot between a gate arm and a median or a curbing thinking that several either one foot or even a small motorcycle could squeeze by. We did not take that into account when we did our quiet zones."

Seminole Chairman Brenda Carey is now frustrated she has to spend another 10 grand of taxpayer money.

"They changed in the middle of us, you know, trying to determine how much it would cost us to implement these quiet zones, so now we are having to spend some additional funds to go back and tweak it based on these new regulations."

I asked Chairman Carey if this was a good example of how red tape costs taxpayers?

"Oh yeah, I could give you lots of examples of all of the strings that are tied to federal funds, even more so than state funds."

Seminole has to now come up with two separate estimates for what quiet zones will cost based on two different interpretations of federal requirements for quiet zones. The County believes they could spend as little as a million dollars to get federal clearance, but may have to spend as much as $2.3 million depending on what the Federal Railroad Administration has to say about how to implement its rules.