Rail neighbors want quiet, but it may not be that simple

People who live and work near the West Redding train station voice their concerns over the sound of the train horns to representatives from Metro-North railroad and the Connecticut Department of Transportation.

People who live and work near the West Redding train station voice their concerns over the sound of the train horns to representatives from Metro-North railroad and the Connecticut Department of Transportation.

Do louder train horns really prove higher safety?

That was one of the many questions raised Wednesday evening at a meeting with residents who live and work near the West Redding train station on the Danbury branch line of the New Haven Metro-North Railroad, along with Connecticut Department of Transportation Commissioner James Redeker and representatives from the Metro-North Railroad.

The meeting, which was held at the Redding Community Center and lasted over two and a half hours, addressed allegations of train horn abuse.

Topics included 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.

Among those at the packed meeting were state Sen. Toni Boucher (R-26) and State Reps. Adam Dunsby (R-135), Will Duff (R-2) and Gail Lavielle (R-143).

Florian Spiekermann, who lives near the Long Ridge intersection, said when a conductor lays on the horn, “it’s very disruptive. I work from home. I spend time in conference calls,” he said. “A continuous horn noise like this makes it very difficult to work.”

Spiekermann said the volume difference in the horn blowing range is very significant, “so a small increase in decibel results in a huge difference in noise,” he said. “Can we somehow get something that’s more consistent, that is on the lower end of the possible range?”

Dottie DeLuca, who owns a business in the West Redding district, echoed Spiekermann’s concerns. She said over the past two years, the horn sounds at Long Ridge have gotten louder.

“We now have gates and the sound has increased in volume and in duration,” she said. “In the wee hours of the morning, we are woken up.”

She made reference to the tragedy several years ago when two people were killed at the crossing.

“Prior to the installation of gates, in 2012, there were two deaths and the horns did not stop it,” she said. “The gates would have.”

However, Lou Frangella, Crossing/Trespasser Regional Manager of the FRA, said 50% percent of all crossing incidents happen at crossings equipped with gates and lights.

“It doesn’t make that much difference,” he said. “People disregard the safety [apparatuses] and that is what happens.”

Redeker said the Federal Railroad Administration (FRA) sets the standards that conductors must follow.

Federal regulations of train horns

According to established regulations by the FRA, the lead locomotive or car of a train is required to sound its horn from 15 to 25 seconds prior to entering a public highway rail at a grade crossing. The horn decibel level must range from 96 to 110 decibels measured 100 feet in front of the train.

“As long as it is within that range, we meet the safety requirements,” Redeker said.

DeLuca said the Department of Transportation should look into standardization of horns that are electronic, “that cannot be manipulated by an individual pull or strength,” she said. “They should be automated — end of story, and maybe we will not have the nightmares that we are living right now.”

Redeker explained that horns are not capable of blowing at a higher decibel “than what they’re built to blow at. Also, as the horns get older, the decibel level goes down.”

“The horn is a pneumatic device, the air that feeds the horn is regulated in a pressure range,” he added. “There is an aging factor over time. Over the years, the horn goes from 110 to 105 to 95 to being noncompliant. If there is an accident and horn is under 95, the operator is liable.”

Quiet Zones

A Quiet Zone is a section of a rail line at least one half mile in length that contains one or more consecutive public highway-rail grade crossings at which locomotive horns are not routinely sounded when trains are approaching at the crossings.  

According to the FRA, Quiet Zones reduce safety at highway grade crossings because the absence of a routine horn sounding increases the risk of a crossing collision.

Equipment such as automatic gates and flashing lights are required to establish a Quiet Zone. In addition, the municipality requesting the Quiet Zone must finance the installation of the additional safety measures.

Redeker explained that if a municipality wants to install a Quiet Zone, “it doesn’t necessarily provide a safer environment, it provides a quieter one. Since our primary goal is safety, horns are part of the safety solution.”

Long Ridge realignment

Pemberton said Redding’s ongoing realignment of the Long Ridge Road Railroad-Highway Grade Crossing would be affected if a Quiet Zone is implemented there.

“If we pursue a Quiet Zone at Long Ridge, it puts the kibosh on the realignment project,” she said. “All the work that has been done is essentially out the window. We have been working on this project for over 20 years. It would hang this project up indefinitely. We have the funding now to complete final design so we agreed we are moving ahead with it.”

Topstone Crossing

Pemberton agreed to look into installing a Quiet Zone at Topstone Crossing.

“I will be in touch with Commissioner Redeker’s office early next week to discuss what, if anything, can be done to mitigate noise without compromising public safety,” she said. “I will then bring it to the town for further discussion.”

She added, however, that she won’t make any commitment without knowing the cost.

“The installation of a Quiet Zone would require a public vote to fund it and agreement that the town would take on responsibility for long-term maintenance and liability,” she said. “I’m just not sure the taxpayers in Redding would support that.”

Redeker said going forward, residents who feel there is abuse on the railroad line can contact him directly at the Connecticut Department of Transportation, and he will follow up with them. “I am aware of your concerns and your complaints,” he said. “We send people out to audit compliance to the rules regularly.”

 

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  • Little Birdie

    The Connecticut Department of Transportation should be ashamed to show their face in public having the most dangerous crossing in the state on Birnie Road in Longmeadow still without gates on 37 years of lost records and 5 deaths. Where do they sleep for 37 years?nn How the quiet zone scam works.n1. Feds trump state train horn laws.n2. Train horns whistle whip people into submission.n3. Railroad comes in and makes a fortune in overcharges and stolen signal equipment (OURS).n4.Somebody (not railroads) has to pay for ridiculous priced liability insurance so railroad is hold harmless.n5. WE will pay ridiculous amounts for railroad to service signals.n6.The crossings for GPS crew-less trains hid behind the curtains not a problem for railroads any longer.n7. Railroad directors pay themselves more millions we make up at check out lanes.n8. The pedestrians that used to have train horns and something to walk on DIE. Winner for the railroad because they go into the evil doer trespasser file.n9. Drivers that use to hear train horns when the junk crossing signals don’t work DIE. Winner for the railroad that’s the cities problem.n10. Hungry kids die of starvation because We the People are really We the Railroad B–tches.

    • edbreyer99

      Wow, that’s an impressive piece of incoherent rambling. Is everything a conspiracy in your world? Simple fact: People die at RR crossings when they go around lowered gates – typically because they are stupid or suicidal. End of story.

      • Little Birdie

        Simple fact —statements like that could get your head warped.

        • leecarlson

          Does the writer know that the conductor is nowhere the horn? The conductor is back in the train, checking tickets. nCalling the engineer a conductor is as stupid as calling the writer of the article a reporter.

          • Little Birdie

            Why ask me what the writer knows there Lee? Why don’t you ask Florian Spiekermann who made the conductor statement the reporter quoted?nnSo where are the baboons from Connecticut railroad safety is the question.

          • jbl

            Pines, they do not need to be there. They are meeting to try to establish a quiet zone, you baboon..

    • jbl

      Here is how the scam works.n1. DOT TRUMP state big truck horns.n2. Truck horns whip people into submission.n3. Trucking companies Michael fortune overcharges and stolen interstate funds.n4. Somebody ( not the trucking companies) has to pay for ridiculous price liability insurance so the truck companies is hold harmless.n5 . We will pay ridiculous amounts for truck weigh stations.n6. The interstate for GPS driverless trucks hide behind the curtains not a problem for the trucks companies anymore.n7. Trucking directors pay themselves millions that we have to make up at the checkout lanes ..n8. Pedestrians that use truck horns and sometimes walk in the middle of the interstates . This is a win-win for the trucking companies because they will claim trespassing for somebody walking down the middle of the interstate.n9. Pedestrians that used to hear truck horns will die because trucks do not use their steering wheels and don’t have brakes. This is a winner for the trucking companies because they don’t have to service their trucks.n10. Hungry people in Missouri like Pines will die of starvation because we the people are really really the trucking company b I ochrs

      • Little Birdie

        Wow JBL your dung truck is spilling out all over the WWW. You sure you don’t work for the railroad?

        • jbl

          Beats the crap out of the sewage that has been seeping out of your mouth. You sure you are not still in jail for tampering with a witness?

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