Neighborhood life
4:00 am
Mon October 28, 2013

Cincinnati still working on plan to make trains quieter at night

Cincinnati Council could approve a report next month that would let the city move forward with a plan to reduce the noise freight trains make when traveling through some neighborhoods.  The idea is to set-up a quiet zone especially for overnight train traffic.

People who live near a railroad track are likely familiar with the locomotive horn.  Currently train engineers are required to blow their horns a quarter mile before each roadway crossing.  It's the same pattern each time:  two long blasts followed by a short and then another long one.  Some residents hear it a lot especially when several road crossings are located close together.  

Cincinnati officials have been looking to make things quieter for about 2 years.  And the answer could be a wayside horn.  There’s still a train horn sound at a roadway crossing.  But instead of coming from the locomotive, it comes through loudspeakers.

Martha Kelly, with the city's department of transportation and engineering, said there is a noticeable difference.

“The sound is still there to warn drivers and pedestrians,” Kelly said.  “But it’s just a much lower scale and does not affect the larger neighborhood.”

Cincinnati is considering using the system along the CSX rail line that runs through the city's Hartwell neighborhood.  It could also benefit neighboring communities including Lockland, Wyoming, Woodlawn, Glendale and Lincoln Heights.  

Kelly said the next step is for city council to take action.

“What we’re recommending is that we work with the adjacent communities and we do a notice of intent to CSX, to the PUCO, and then also the Federal Rain Administration,” Kelly said.  “And it’s just an official form that they would then approve.  If that’s approved, then we would search for funding and implement.”

The city and the other communities would have to pay for the wayside horns, which could cost about $60,000 each.  

Other options to keep trains from blowing their horns at the intersections could cost about $500,000 per crossing.  That involves installing roadway gates to prevent vehicles from crossing the tracks and not being able to drive around them.  

CSX could oppose the wayside horn plan.  A railroad official told the city the company has not approved their use at this time.