Federal officials to revise rules for train noise, marking another step forward for Windsor | MyWindsorNow.com

Federal officials to revise rules for train noise, marking another step forward for Windsor

Jason Pohl

A train sounds its horn as it crosses over Colo. 257 and Walnut Street last April in Windsor. Local officials are working to reduce the train noise in the town of Windsor.

Federal officials could allow greater community input that might spur compromise on when trains must sound their horns when rolling through residential areas, including those in Windsor and numerous other Front Range cities.

Following continued pressure from U.S. Sens. Michael Bennet and Mark Udall, both Democrats from Colorado, the Federal Railroad Administration recently agreed to review the rules surrounding stringent and costly Quiet Zone requirements. Any potential revisions could pave the way for communities to find a more economical and streamlined solution to silence trains, which are required by law to blast their horns when going through every at-grade rail crossing.

"I have long argued that the Federal Railroad Administration's train noise rules, while well intentioned, were not working for Colorado communities that want to spur economic development and protect residents' quality of life," Udall said in a joint news release.

Bennet added the move "is encouraging news to local communities" and demonstrates a "common sense" approach that could benefit communities around the country and especially in Colorado.

“I have long argued that the Federal Railroad Administration train noise rules, while well intentioned, were not working for Colorado communities …
Mark Udall
U.S. Senator from Colorado

The move comes after Windsor recently landed a $2.79 million grant that allows the Department of Transportation to invest in road, rail and transit projects that have 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.

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That money will be used in a sweeping infrastructure project in Windsor that should bring peace of mind to residents living near Windsor's railroad crossings.

The process is moving forward, and town leaders are working with federal officials on developing a timeline and exact stipulations of when the improvements could become a reality, Town Manager Kelly Arnold said.

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 foot the bill for the changes to bring quiet evenings to a community.

Arnold welcomed the news of the potential compromise and stressed the town is actively working on several fronts to find an answer that will silence the horns in Windsor for good.

"We still believe, as we always have, that it's appropriate to review the rules and we will be ready to participate in that process when the time comes," he said.

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