City of Edmonds Public Works Director Phil Williams updated the City Council’s Parks and Public Works Committee — and several interested citizens in attendance — on the status of the city’s long-awaited trackside warning system at the Dayton and Main Street railroad crossings, which would significantly reduce train horn noise along the waterfront.
“We are getting close,” Williams said. “Probably work can be done some time in February.”
The city had originally hoped to have the project in place in summer 2018, and had already worked out a plan to run conduits for the system and to install the horns on existing BNSF infrastructure. That plan was delayed when the city learned that BNSF was working with the State Department of Transportation on a much larger project that includes relocating all BNSF signals.
BNSF completed their project in November, and the city is now coordinating the final approval with BNSF to begin the installation of the warning system.
“I never promise anything anymore on this project because we’ve been surprised quite a few times,” Williams said. “The indication is that they are ready to check that off and there were just a couple of procedural things that need to happen.”
Among those procedural items: The city needs to arrange for a BNSF flagger to be present during the project and none of them is currently available. “But we have an early request in for one and I hope that comes together quickly,” Williams said. Then the city’s contractor needs to provide insurance information to the railroad and schedule the work. Once those things happen, Williams said, the project should be completed fairly quickly — probably within two weeks.
Additional funding will also be required for the project, Williams said. This is due to several changes and cost adjustments to the scope of work for city contractor Quiet Zone Technologies, due to BNSF requirements. These included the following modifications:
-Addition of a new light and support pole on the northeast corner at the Main Street crossing. The existing pole had to be replaced with a new pole that was designed to support the weight of the new trackside warning equipment.
-Additional work related to connecting the city’s existing electrical service on the north side of Dayton Street, west of BNSF’s tracks.
Just over $100,000 has been spent on the project, which had been initially budgeted $350,000. The total project cost is now estimated at $458,000. A large percentage of the increase is due to BNSF’s estimated cost for permits ($18,199) and required upgrades ($112,097) to their signal cabinets at both crossings.
The council will consider at a future business meeting a proposed supplemental agreement to cover additional costs.
The Parks and Public Works Committee also got its first look Tuesday night at an issue making the rounds of local municipalities: How to accommodate a Federal Communications Commission ruling in September 2018 that limits how state and local governments regulate small wireless facilities.
As we reported in our earlier story, the small cells — which provide the new, faster 5G technology for wireless customers — can be placed on light poles, traffic signals, building roofs, road signs, billboards, and more. So instead of beaming connectivity from a few large cell towers, 5G will utilize lots of small transmitters.
Small cells don’t require as much power as full-sized towers, and perform best when clustered together to create more of a mesh network than a point-to-point signal. This requires a lot of hardware and it all has to be attached somewhere.
The issue will get a full airing at next week’s Jan. 15 council business meeting, when the staff will present a range of alternatives for installing small wireless facilities on public property and other property located inside and outside the public rights-of-way in Edmonds.
The city’s existing wireless communications facilities code will need to be updated to specifically address small cell facilities as well as aesthetic regulations.The FCC’s order becomes effective Jan. 14, and local jurisdictions have until April 14 to have aesthetic rules in place.
— By Teresa Wippel