Railroad News

Newspaper Measures Locomotive Horn Volume, Value of Quiet Zones

(Olathe, Kansas – June 27, 2011)

Does neighborhood peace and quiet outweigh the perceived safety aspects provided by locomotive horns warning of a train’s approach? Such was the basic premise explored in a front-page article authored by long-time Kansas City news media political analyst Dave Helling in Monday’s edition of The Kansas City Star.

Helling interviewed a few trackside residents but in exploring FRA-permitted “Quiet Zones”, Helling found vastly mixed opinions. Quoting the opinion of “Noise Free America” spokesman Ted Rueter, the FRA should reconsider its horn regulations. “It’s absurd. They could cut the loudness by a third, by two thirds, and it would still be plenty loud.”

Helling cited the experience of Olathe, KS, where more than $5 million was spent in compliance improvements to allow establishment of a “Quiet Zone” in the downtown of the Johnson County Seat, thus muting the horns of the estimated 88 trains daily that travel the downtown rail route. “Train horns were sounding the equivalent of five hours every day through downtown,” attested Olathe spokesman Tim Dannenberg. “The project has made a major difference.” But Helling reports that everyone is not happy with Quiet Zones.

“And some railroads don’t like them, either,” says Helling, citing the policy of Union Pacific that appears on the railroad’s website: “Union Pacific believes quiet zones compromise the safety of railroad employees, customers and the general public.”