Celebration in Windsor was palpable among town leaders last week when they found out they had been awarded a nearly $2.8 million grant to help silence train horn noise in the community. Since then, though, they’ve dived head-first into what it all means — they’ve been fighting for the funds for months — and are in wait-and-see mode about how the money can and will be used moving forward.
“Once we get that news, then we will put together the game plan and be able to provide the best information,” Town Manager Kelly Arnold said Wednesday.
Residents shouldn’t expect instant relief from the blaring horns at all hours of the night. Depending on what staff hears from the federal government, it would likely be a process during the next several months — or years — to construct enhanced active grade crossing warning devices, traffic control infrastructure and pedestrian crossing upgrades at 10 public crossings through two main residential areas on the east side of town. The engineering, planning and purchasing of that equipment, Arnold said, will take time, given the “uniqueness” of the equipment.
He said the town has been told it will hear from leaders from the Department of Transportation in the coming weeks to learn the specifics of the grant award. Previous estimates put the cost for the quiet zone improvements at around $2.3 million.
The funding announced last week stems from a Transportation Investment Generating Economic Recovery (TIGER) Grant, which allows the DOT to invest in road, rail and transit projects that have a major impacts on communities and regions. The grants are highly competitive, and only about 10 percent are granted each year, according to the DOT’s website.
While homeowners who moved near the railways expected noise when they decided to move there, they likely didn’t anticipate how quickly things would escalate. Lawmakers in 2005 enacted the final stipulations of the Train Horn Rule, effectively changing the game for all locomotives and communities across the nation. The rule mandates that all train engineers sound horns for 15-20 seconds ahead of all public grade rail crossings to the specific blast pattern of two long, one short, and one long.
Lawmakers understood that some communities around the country would be negatively affected by the blaring horns. That’s why they included stipulations for quiet zones, but local officials have maintained there should be exemptions to the rule for towns like Windsor that are home to short line rail systems. Plus, many questioned who should be tasked with the bill for the changes to bring quiet evenings to a community.
Town leaders have been actively working toward a solution for several months — years even — in an effort that has garnered support from neighboring communities and leaders around the state, including Colorado Democratic Sens. Michael Bennet and Mark Udall, who have actively worked to bring changes to communities afflicted with the nuisance.
“Train noise is a serious issue affecting communities throughout Colorado,” Udall said in a news release. “This is a victory for Windsor, but I will keep fighting to ensure that the Federal Railroad Administration works with other cities and towns to make its quiet-zone rules less onerous for local taxpayers.”