trains, pains & automobiles

Brent Finnegan -- July 10th, 2007

Quiet zones along the train tracks were the cause célèbres at tonight’s city council meeting. You may have caught this story in the DNR a month ago about it. Tonight, one city, and one county resident spoke out in favor of continuing to allow the obnoxiously loud horns. Seven city residents spoke out in favor of quiet zones.

One woman kept a log of the disturbances for nineteen days. She said she was awoken seventeen of the nineteen nights. One night, between 12:30 and 2:45, she claims to have counted 98 individual blasts of the horn. According to Ray and Martha Shifflett, the cities of Salem, and of Cumberland, MD have have experimented with quiet zones. Currently, trains in H’burg blow their whistles even at crossings with gates. As one resident pointed out, this is rather ridiculous. He said, “We don’t require trucks to blow their horns when going through a solid green light.”

But the impediments to the quiet zones are not the folks who want the nostalgic/earsplitting sounds to continue. It’s the cost of making all 34 crossings in the city meet the federal requirements, as well as safety concerns and liability issues that may stifle the efforts of the quiet zone proponents.

At an estimated $90 million, re-routing the trains around the city is out of the question. And the price tag to add “constant warning time circuitry” at every crossing is looking pretty high as well. Judging from their comments this evening, it sounds like Council Member Chenault is more in favor of quiet zones than Mayor Eagle seems to be. But because you need a half mile of gated track per zone zone, it looks like the best case scenario for the light sleepers may be “partial quiet zones” here or there, rather than an entirely mute train within the city limits.

5 Responses to “trains, pains & automobiles”

  1. justin says:

    People really expect trains to be quiet living next to the tracks? Seems like they might be trying to make up for their bad decisions.

  2. finnegan says:

    Part of the issue is in late 2003, regulations said the horns had to be louder.

    The other thing is they’re designed for trains speeding across open country, not lumbering through the city.

    It would seem logical that the regulations said the decibel level should match the speed of the train, but that’s not the case.

  3. Mike says:

    No, those of us who live next to the tracks don’t expect the trains to be quiet. Most of the noise produced by the trains in town is completely acceptable, including the rumble that shakes my kitchen when they roll past, and the thunderous crash when two rail cars impact at a healthy speed (when they’re hooking the cars together). That’s cool. I live next to a working rail depot. I get it.

    The horn is just adding insult to injury. If you haven’t lived next to a crossing (like, say, the Gay st. crossing for those of us in the City Exchange building), you might not appreciate the full effect of the horn. It is LOUD. 5ish times/day a train passes behind this building, and each train blows the horn 3-4 times at the Kratzer Ave crossing, then another 3-4 times at the Gay st crossing (400 feet down the tracks), then ANOTHER 3-4 times at the Liberty/Rock st crossing (200 feet further down the tracks).

    Is this really necessary?

  4. David Miller says:

    Not just is it necessary, is it for any purpose (besides federal regulations made blanketly to “protect” all of America). If the flashing lights, the dinging of the traffic warning systems and the gates don’t give it away, thats my definition of Natural Selection.

    If we have a problem with the federal regulations, why not try to adjust those. We have elected representatives that might be interested in helping.

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