Pemberton hosts meeting on train horn abuse

The West Redding railroad station on the New Haven Metro-North line

The West Redding railroad station on the New Haven Metro-North line

It happens all day and all night. A train passes through the West Redding station, on the Danbury branch line of the New Haven Metro-North Railroad — right near the home and business of Dottie DeLuca.

Whether she’s with a customer or fast asleep in her bed — located upstairs from her business — she said the sound of the horn interrupts her thoughts, her activities, and essentially, her life.

“This has been going on for five years for me, ever since I opened this business [Fleur De Lis Antiques and Design]. Whenever the horn sounds and I’m with a customer, we both have to stop talking until the train passes.

“I haven’t slept through the night in five years,” DeLuca said, adding that she can’t even talk about this topic without getting upset. “I think everyone in this area has PTSD from this. It’s torture.”

Like DeLuca, Kristin Mauck also lives and works near the West Redding train station. She’s a graphic designer and owner of Seven-7 Graphics on Chalburn Road.  

“We get the brunt of the blasting. It hits us like a ton of bricks, several times a night,” she said, adding some engineers abuse the train horn rules. “I record a lot of them. One guy will toot his horn eight times instead of four,” Mauck said. “They have to address the abusers.”

In response to this issue, First Selectman Julia Pemberton is hosting a community meeting called “Train Horn Abuse Danbury line,” on Wednesday, Aug. 9 at 7:30 p.m., at the Redding Community Center, 37 Lonetown Road.

Connecticut Department of Transportation Commissioner James Redeker and representatives from Metro North Railroad are among those who will be speaking at the meeting.

Topics of discussion will include concerns about train horn noise levels at and approaching the Long Ridge and Topstone railroad crossings, the Federal Railroad Administration Train Horn Rule, rail crossing safety and Quiet Zones.

Pemberton said she has been immersed in the issue of train horn abuse since she took office. “We do have residents who are very upset about the level of noise created by the horns at the Long Ridge and Topstone crossings,” she said.

There is currently a set of train horn protocols established by the Federal Railroad Administration. According to the FRA, the noise level must be no louder than 110 decibels and no less than 96 decibels.

Under the Train Horn Rule, locomotive engineers must begin to sound train horns at least 15 seconds — and no more than 20 seconds — in advance of all public grade crossings.

According to the regulations, train horns must be sounded in a standardized pattern of two long, one short and 1 long blast. The pattern must be repeated or prolonged until the lead locomotive or lead cab car occupies the grade crossing. The rule does not stipulate the durations of long and short blasts.

Pemberton said data was collected related to the noise levels at both the Topstone and Long Ridge crossings, with the assistance of the Western Connecticut Council of Governments (WestCOG).

“WestCOG placed the decibel meters and shared the data with us,” she said, adding that during the time the meters were in place, the noise levels were within the legal limits.

“I am very glad that Commissioner James Redeker is willing to have a meeting in Redding to hear the concerns of those residents and explore and explain what the options are for mitigating noise, and if they are feasible at the Long Ridge and Topstone Crossings. Furthermore, [we will learn] what the cost of those mitigating features would be and who would bear the cost and take on the liability,” Pemberton said. “It should be a very interesting meeting.”

 

 

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  • SolonGT

    A little context, prior owners did not live above their business. Anyway, moving into a whistle stop and then complaining about train whistles that are a genuine safety precaution and have existed for decades is a unique take to say the least.nnThe next thing you know people who move next to Danbury Airport will start complaining about all the plane sounds they hear. What’s up with all that plane noise?

    • David Spellman

      BIG difference between an airport and a train crossing. Blowing the horn is especially unnecessary at Long Ridge when northbound trains have already stopped at the station some 50yds from the crossing and the crossing is now blocked by gates.

      • frustrated commuter

        What part of ‘federal law’ don’t you understand?

        • David Spellman

          The part that says people aren’t allowed to seek changes and improvement, even after 150+ years of status quo.

  • David Spellman

    Yeah, I witnessed the noise level “data collection.” Some dozen or more technicians clad in official looking outfits with obtrusive equipment that could be recognized as to its intent were scattered about along the sides of the track. Of course none of the train engineers knew the study was being conducted but for some reason their horns were much quieter during that time. Funny.

  • Mr T

    The train has been there for over 100 years. If you purchased or live next to the tracks and are now complaining about noise is foolish to say the least. Also, from the tunnel near Topledge to the station in West Redding, there are 4-6 private crossings which is why the horn is sounded so frequently. Don’t like train noise, don’t live near train tracks- its that simple.

    • frustrated commuter

      Amen.

  • Kristin

    Sandra – wonderful article. Thanks you for covering these issues. The system is old, overlooked, and antiquated. Horn abuse is the excuse. The intersections are dangerous: safety first – quad gates and partial quiet zones should be in the future plans.

  • frustrated commuter

    Its federal law. Didn’t you notice there was a level crossing nearby and check the Metro No train schedules before you moved in? There have been trains and level crossings here since the 1850s – likely before your building was built – so stop complaining. Are these properties zoned for residential occupancy?

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