The city of Muncie has launched an effort to create a downtown quiet zone by closing or upgrading railroad crossings in a push to reduce thousands of daily train whistles.
Muncie's push would benefit a $40 million Courtyard by Marriott hotel slated for a groundbreaking later this year and set to open in fall 2015 just north of CSX Transportation and Norfolk Southern tracks.
After a city board approved a preliminary quiet zone engineering agreement with CSX and Norfolk Southern, Mayor Dennis Tyler said Wednesday the changes intended to curtail the loud train whistles will cost up to an estimated $5 million.
"This the boldest project to improve our quality of place in the city of Muncie in many years. And it's the right thing to do for Muncie," Tyler told The Star Press.
The mayor said the city has received a $1.4 million commitment from The Arc of Indiana, the advocacy group that's spearheading the Marriott hotel project, for the rail crossing changes. Tyler said the Arc also pledged $170,000 toward the city's $237,000 cost for the engineering study with CSX and Norfolk Southern.
But he said the central Indiana city will have to find the balance to finance the $5 million project.
Previous mayors had tried and failed to reach quiet zone agreements in Muncie to help the Roberts Hotel before it closed in 2006.
The Arc's planned 6-story hotel will not only include 150 rooms, but also a restaurant and a training center for people with disabilities who want to be employed in the hospitality industry.
Tyler said Wednesday's engineering agreement was the first phase needed before the city can move forward.
"We wanted the railroads and the Federal Railroad Administration to know we're serious about eliminating 4,000 train whistles a day," he said.
Tyler said the federal agency provided that estimate of whistles, and noted the goal is to reduce the noise of whistles to an acceptable 70-80 decibels audible in a circular area in Muncie's downtown.