Skip to comments.Train Whistles Silenced (No Noise in the City, Please!)
Posted on 01/17/2008 6:14:11 AM PST by Diana in Wisconsin
To the delight of Judy Twesme and other residents, the piercing sound of train whistles will soon fade from Downtown Madison neighborhoods.
The city, which installed $900,000 in gates and flashing lights at 10 crossings in the last two years, has finally won federal approval for three "quiet zones " Downtown beginning Jan. 30.
"People are really, really excited, " said Twesme, a Bassett neighborhood resident. "People aren 't able to sleep through the night. I 'm one of those people. Sleep depravation is not a good thing. "
"The romantic notion of a railroad is not there if there is a train outside your window at 4 in the morning blowing its horn, " said Peter Ostlind, chairman of the Bassett District of Capitol Neighborhoods.
Whistles will continue to blow in other areas, but the city intends to add warning devices at crossings and establish more quiet zones over time, city officials said.
The city will install $780,000 in equipment at eight crossings to create a quiet zone along East Washington Avenue and Fordem Avenue this year. The city can create a zone, which must be a half-mile long, or extend one that's been established.
"Anything the city can do to give residents respite from train horns, especially at night, is really a good thing, especially if it 's safe," said Steve Randolph, the city 's most vocal advocate of a whistle ban, who lives in the area that would be the fourth quiet zone.
"It 's been a long battle with a lot of animosity, " he said.
After a grass-roots campaign, the city adopted a ban on whistles at intersections with at least one active warning device in October 2001, but it ended in June 2006 when it was superseded by a Federal Railroad Administration rule. The rule says whistles must sound at any intersection not protected by both gates and flashing lights.
The city then began a program to improve crossings.
"I 'm ecstatic the city will be able to deliver some peace and quiet for Downtown residents, " said City Council President Mike Verveer, who represents the central city. "The number one complaint by Downtown residents in the last year has been this issue."
Whistles are especially troubling to the many residents who moved Downtown while the city 's initial ban was in place, Verveer said, adding that he hears complaints about people getting ill from sleep deprivation and pets having accidents in homes.
Twesme, for example, bought her home just before the ban ended and was shocked by the first nighttime whistle. "I thought, Oh my God, what 's happening?'"
Funding for improvements came from city tax incremental financing money, not borrowing, said George Twigg, spokesman for Mayor Dave Cieslewicz.
The state provided money to improve crossings on West Washington Avenue and John Nolen Drive.
The new gates and lights improve safety, Wisconsin Railroad Commissioner Rodney Kruenen said. About a half-dozen trains rumble through the city every day, but the number will increase if the region adopts commuter rail, he said.
"Most people have never seen the aftermath of a rail-vehicle accident, " he said. "You have never seen anything so brutal. It is horrible. "
Ken Lucht, community development manager for the Wisconsin & Southern Railroad, couldn 't be reached.
The city, railroad and state are still discussing possible street closures, new safety equipment and a potential quiet zone in the East Rail corridor, Kruenen said.
It would cost between $10 million and $12 million to improve all crossings in the city, said Steve Sonntag, the city 's pavement management engineer.
"I'm hoping the same (quiet) experience can be shared by more residents of our city over time, " Verveer said.
So I guess it’s not true what Paul Simon said. “Everyone loves the sound of a train in the distance. Everyone knows it’s true.”
My house is about 200 yards from a set of railroad tracks, which runs maybe 4 or 5 trains a day, including some that run overnight. When I first moved in, I could hear the trains, but after about a week, you don't even notice them. I find it difficult to believe that these people are being kept up by the trains running by.
...and when someone gets killed because the train was forbidden to blow it’s horn, then what?
“The city, which installed $900,000 in gates and flashing lights at 10 crossings in the last two years, has finally won federal approval for three “quiet zones “ Downtown beginning Jan. 30.”
At the cost of $900,000 taxpayer dollars, these people have increased their property values. Unless you owned your home before 1900, everyone should know there always was a train there and trains make noise! I’m sure they got their homes for cheap due to the noise, now they got a free upgrade thanks to the taxpayers.
Yes, they do. But the key words in the sentence are “in the distance.”
I once lived in a house that was four blocks from a major railroad marshaling yard. You could really hear those train whistles, especially from the upper floors. LOUD. (The house was an old Victorian, with 15 ft ceilings.)
I am a train buff, and a little hard-of-hearing, so they did not bother me, but my wife was not nearly as charmed. To me, the most interesting thing was that each engineer has his own signature whistle. You could tell who was driving by the whistle as they approached the yard.
Which was there first? The complainers or the trains?
If you don’t like noise don’t buy a house near a rail road. Trains are loud. The same can be said about living near an air port that was already there when you bought your house.
As much as I hate to admit it, I even got used to hearing the boom base speakers that make the whole house shake at 2 in the morning. Probably what happened to them is they are having PTSD. Not knowing about the train horns to begin with started the problem. If you know what it is, the adrenalin doesn’t kick in. Just a thought.
The whistle requirement is an example of the government trying to stop stupid people from dying. They will find another way.
stay off the tracks. How hard is it? Trains don’t sneak up on people.
My town has a restriction on the length of the train horn blast during particular hours, but no outright ban. That’s just foolish and jeopardizes safety. Like other postings on here... did you not SEE the train tracks and research the neighborhood before you bought your home? No? too damn bad.
The trains were first in most case, but you asked the wrong question. I believe the whistle requirement throughout the night was a recent regulation aimed to stop idiots and suicidal folks from driving around the crossing guards.
Its called LOCATION, LOCATION, LOCATION you nerd. Want to bet that the taxpayers are subsidizing the mortgage/rent too.
All well and good till someone dies Train’s have horns for a reason.
They would have LOVED one of the houses I remember living in as a young lad....Lived in one of those ‘claptrap’ type rooming houses that were located right at the grade crossing with a small station that was a typical ‘whistle stop’....I seem to remember everything was covered with a fine layer of coal dust.....Bet that was good for the ‘lungs’....
In this day and age it is PROBABLY PUBLIC HOUSING so back in my day it was allright for you to live there if you paid for it, but today you can’t even GIVE IT TO SOMEONE...
SOME PEOPLE WOULD B—CH IF YOU HUNG THEM WITH A NEW ROPE
“If you dont like noise dont buy a house near a rail road.”
Easy for you to say, Graybeard58 . . .
Guess you didn’t realize that recent Federal legislation forces train drivers to blow horns with certain distances from stations, and the horn noise levels have been increasing for the same reason police & fire sirens have gotten louder, due to better sound insulation on cars and drivers immersed in their own music.
I live less than 100’ fromo CSX/Amtrak/VRE/Metro tracks and the noise of the horns is ear-splitting. But it wasn’t always that way. Has gotten much worse in recent years.
I agree, you don’t have much of a right to complain about something that existed before you made a decision to move in, but if things changed since you moved in, that’s a different story.
I’m going to lobby my local officials for quiet-zones (again). I tried this once before, but this WI example re-inspired me.
The idea that loud horns are needed at every railroad crossing day and night is some sort of “big government” thing. We travel in cars that have good soundproofing and listen to the radio, so most of the time it’s difficult to hear anything outside. Flashing lights and guard rails, especially in urban areas, make a lot more sense.