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Davenport and Bettendorf make progress on rail crossing improvements as train merger goes forward

Millions of dollars will be used to build 'silent crossings,' reducing noise issues for the communities and it aims to keep roads safe.

DAVENPORT, Iowa — With the first major train merger in more than two decades, towns in the Quad Cities area are turning its wheels on what to do with millions of dollars.

On March 15, federal regulators approved the $31 billion merger between railroad companies Canadian Pacific and Kansas City Southern.

The deal has been controversial for the Quad Cities area as city officials expect three times the amount of freight traffic each day - around 20 or more trains.

Now that the deal is going forward, city leaders are already taking steps to address noise concerns.

"What the city has done is, we've contracted with an outside engineering firm to start developing the silent crossing plans," city of Davenport 3rd Ward alderwoman Marion McGinnis said.

The city of Davenport will receive $10 million from the rail companies for these improvements once the deal finalizes.

"We'll start at Marquette St. and go all the way to the last crossing in Davenport, which is at the East Village," McGinnis said. "We will be able to address all of those across the city."

$2 million of the funds will also go towards a full overpass at South Concord Street, which the city is hoping to supplement with federal grants.

"The crossing is often backed up because it's so close to their switching yard," McGinnis explained.

She added that the crossing is an important area for the rail companies and the city.

"That road goes into our water pollution control plant - that's what basically flushes all the toilets in Davenport, Bettendorf and up the river for a couple of towns," McGinnis said. "That's a very important facility that we need to have access to at all times."

The city of Bettendorf is getting $3 million for their own improvements, also focusing on silent crossings. City attorney Chris Curran explained the requirements behind these crossings.

"You have to make it safe so that your whistle doesn't have to blow," he said. "The arms have to be strong enough to withstand a car running into the arms once it comes down, the additional lighting - it just has to be safe enough."

He said the city plans to start these improvements in July 2024.

"About $1.5 million for all the quiet zones that we are anticipating, which would give us enough money... left of the $3 million do to some other mitigation actions," Curran said.

Both cities are looking into upgrading pedestrian walkways for increased safety, among other projects like new crossings.

"It's a lot of moving parts, but I feel very comfortable that our staff will be able to manage all of that," McGinnis said.

Curran said over the next several months, the rail companies will finalize its merger - and that about 60 days after that, cities should start receiving their agreement funds.

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