Rantoul weighing study on silencing train horns
RANTOUL — The days of blaring train horns at all hours could become a thing of the past.
The village board will consider a proposal to authorize a $20,000 quiet-zone study to determine whether railroad engines could be safely prohibited from sounding their horns within the village. The board is expected to vote on the issue at Tuesday's monthly meeting.
Baxter & Woodman Consulting Engineers would prepare the study.
A quiet zone is a section of rail line at least a 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 the crossings. It does not apply to train-horn use within passenger stations.
The study will evaluate the seven at-grade railroad crossings in Rantoul. At issue is whether they would be safe if trains did not sound their horns.
Trustee Jeremy Reale said he doesn't see a problem with locomotives blowing their horns. Others, however, do.
Mayor Chuck Smith said of the top-five complaints he receives, noise from train horns is probably No. 3.
The horns are allowed to be sounded at any time of day.
"It is a high priority for a lot of people in the community," Smith said, "so I think it's worth us taking a $20,000 look to see if we can't solve this problem."
Said Trustee Hank Gamel, "Having heard those train horns 24/7 for a period of 30 years, I wish this had been an eligibility (possibility) maybe 15 years ago or so."
Gamel said he wonders whether the village is receiving more complaints because people know some communities are banning the horns.
Trustee Chad Smith questioned whether the village's liability would increase if the ban is enacted.
Village attorney Ken Beth said it might, "but these liabilities are always fact, and the issue is going to be whether we are negligent in installing something that was not safe or not maintaining something that became unsafe. That's probably not a whole lot different than what we have right now."
The seven Rantoul crossings of the Canadian National tracks are at Murray Road, Chandler Road, a private crossing, Sangamon Avenue, Grove Avenue, Campbell Avenue and a township road.
Baxter & Woodman would evaluate each crossing for potential modification options and their costs. The absence of routine horn sounding increases the risk of a crossing collision, and as a result, measures would have to be taken to mitigate the risk.
State, federal and rail authorities would then review the proposed changes. If approved, the village would then budget and fund the proposed crossing improvements.
Rantoul would be perhaps the first downstate community to develop a quiet zone. There are about 44 communities in Illinois that have quiet-zone designations, according to the proposed agreement with the company.
Dave Hinton is editor of the Rantoul Press, a News-Gazette community newspaper. For more, visit rantoulpress.com.
How the rules would be different in Rantoul if a "quiet zone" is established, according to the Federal Railroad Administration:
Trains must begin to sound their horns at least 15 seconds, and no more than 20 seconds, in advance of all public grade crossings.
Horns must be sounded in a standardized pattern of two long, one short and one long blasts.
The maximum volume for the horn is 110 decibels. The minimum is 96.
IN A QUIET ZONE
Railroads are directed to cease the routine sounding of train horns when approaching crossings.
Horns may be used only in emergency situations or to comply with other federal regulations.
Establishing a quiet zone does not eliminate the use of locomotive bells at crossings.