Washington lawmakers on Thursday made progress in finding a solution to train noise problems that plague Windsor and communities across the Front Range, but the town is still a long way from quiet nights near the tracks.
The U.S. Senate passed an amendment introduced by Colorado Sens. Michael Bennet and Mark Udall, that will require the Federal Railroad Administration and communities across the state to discuss how to make rail crossing upgrades easier to obtain and quiet zones a less-burdensome possibility. After working with individual communities, the FRA will have 180 days to report its findings back to Congress, according to a joint news release from Udall and Bennet.
Windsor Town Manager Kelly Arnold said there’s still a lot of work to be done before a solution is found, but Thursday’s Senate passage was a sign that things are moving forward and outrage across the state is being heard loud and clear.
Like Windsor, many Colorado cities and towns have struggled since 2005 with Federal Railroad Administration rules that requires expensive railroad crossing upgrades for communities that want to stop freight and passenger trains from sounding their horns in residential and commercial areas throughout the day and night. This measure is at least opening the door for a conversation — one that leaders in Windsor have been working on for several months and years. As growth has continued in both residential and industrial zones across town, complaints have streamed in about the required horn blasts.
“The safety of our railroad crossings is important to communities throughout Colorado,” Bennet said in the release. “These towns want to create a peaceful environment for businesses to thrive, but the current use of train horns, and the frequently prohibitive cost of establishing quiet zones, is stifling economic development.”
Communities along the Front Range have been urging leaders to make it more possible to get waivers on federal horn requirements. Those efforts became especially apparent this year as town leaders and residents made repeated pleas to elected officials for help.
In April, U.S. Reps. Cory Gardner, R-Colo., and Jared Polis, D-Colo., asked the House Transportation and Infrastructure Committee’s Subcommittee on Railroads, Pipelines and Hazardous Materials to hold a hearing on how the train horn rule can be improved in a way that allows for greater local flexibility while keeping vital safety measures in place.
With Thursday’s passage in the Senate, the amendment must gain approval from the U.S. House of Representatives.