Since 2005, when the Federal Railroad Administration said that trains at crossings had to give a longer, louder warning of their presence, residents have complained about the noise. Our local communities have been stymied by the cost of creating “quiet zones” at train crossings. In Longmont for example, there are 17 railroad crossings. The City recently estimated that to set up quiet zones at a dozen crossings in town would run nearly $7 million. Loveland and Fort Collins have also studied the cost of utilizing quiet zones but balked at the cost.
Senators Mark Udall and Michael Bennet and Congressmen Cory Gardner and Jared Polis are working to address the problems created by the FRA’s rule. Early this year Senators Bennet and Udall wrote to the FRA, saying, “As you may expect, train horn noise impacts almost everyone in communities where the railroad runs right through the center of town and where the business and residential area is spread over a relatively small area. These impacts are amplified in downtown areas, which are focusing on redevelopment and urban renewal, as well as creating healthy, walkable neighborhoods.”
In response, the FRA noted that 525 quiet zones had been created nationwide, including 10 new ones in Colorado. Joseph Szabo, FRA administrator said his agency will review its rules but noted that safety is the first priority.
In April, Congressmen Polis and Gardner asked a congressional subcommittee, the Subcommittee on Railroads, Pipelines and Hazardous Materials, to hold hearings on the matter. Gardner said the hearings have not yet been scheduled, but will likely be added to an existing hearing later this year. Whether these efforts will lead to a solution remains to be seen, but it’s refreshing to see a bipartisan action in any case.