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Mason City agrees to reimbursement agreement with railroad for third-party consultant on Quiet Zone project

MASON CITY —The City Council in Mason City this week has approved a reimbursement agreement with the Union Pacific Railroad for services related to the Quiet Zone project.

The project is currently at a standstill and progress has ceased as well as any direct communication with the Union Pacific. The city was contacted by a third-party consultant assigned by the UP in late July who said all reviews and approvals would go through him. Since that time, the city received a contract reimbursement agreement from the UP, with the railroad rejecting and refusing to issue a necessary permit for the city’s contractor to complete work at the 15th Southwest crossing.

City Engineer Mark Rahm says the UP a few years ago changed their management style, opting for third-party consultants to deal with that, and the reimbursement agreement helps funds those consultants.  “The bottom line is that they don’t have staffing in their Omaha office to review the plans, so they hired that out to a third-party consultant who in turn needs to get paid, and that’s what they’re using as a funding source. It’s not that I agree with all of what’s in their agreement. I’ve been in conversations with the Federal Railroad and the new people there. This is becoming a common practice by not only the UP but other railroads as they change their business style. We’re just kind of there. If we want to continue, we’re going to need to have those reviews so we can push the project forward.”

Rahm says he’s confident that the city will complete the project, especially since the Union Pacific’s third-party consultant knows most of  it is completed.  “He knows that a lot of this is already completed, so I think we’re going to get there, but we cannot get there until that work is completed at the grade crossing. Basically that’s what this is for is to get the final review of the plans that I’ve set before them, showing that what the city is proposing to do to meet their requirements and to meet the FRA requirements, and then when our contractor can get his permit and get that work done, then I’m confident that we’re going to get to the finish line on this project. How soon that will be? I have no guarantee there, but at least we can start to move towards that again.”

The city has been working for years on the effort to reduce train horn noise by establishing the Quiet Zone at the UP’s crossings at 15th Southwest, 6th Southwest and 1st Northwest. 

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