Friday, April 30, 2010

Railroad construction project prompts train engineers to whistle

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Railroad construction project prompts train engineers to whistle | Railway Track & Structures

Alexandria, Va., has become a whistle stop town - in more ways than one. Trains have been a regular feature of city life here since before the Civil War. But lately they've been making a ruckus. All over Alexandria, the sound of train whistles has been heard at all hours of the night and day, the Alexandria Gazette Packet reports.

The reason for the noise is simple - construction.

For months, CSX Transportation workers have been constructing a new bridge over the Norfolk Southern line near Cameron Run Regional Park. The construction project involved workers on site, which means that people are around when the trains barrel though the area. According to federal regulation, engineers are required to blow the whistle when they see people near the tracks. That means a whole lot of whistling is going on in Alexandria.

"The neighborhood is really upset about it," said Mindy Lyle, president of the Cameron Civic Association. "During the day it's fine, but people who live near the train tracks are losing sleep over this."

The project is part of a larger effort to construct a third "main line" railroad track between Fredericksburg and Washington, D.C. The Alexandria railroad bridge replacement is the link between seven miles of new "main line" beginning at the Franconia-Springfield VRE station in Fairfax County and continuing to Alexandria's Union Station.

"They're about a month behind schedule because of the snowstorm," said city spokesman Tony Castrilli. "The goal is to have the new bridge in place by Memorial Day."

The expanded capacity is needed to facilitate more frequent and reliable service for Amtrak and Virginia Railway Express. Railroad workers are working to replace an existing one-track bridge built in 1904 with a new double-track bridge constructed with two million pounds of steel and 12,000 bolts. The new bridge is being assembled on the construction site adjacent to the existing bridge, and it will be rolled into place when assembly is complete.

"The whistling doesn't bother me so much," said Dak Hardwik, who lives near the construction site. "What keeps me up at night is all the noise coming from Norfolk Southern's ethanol transloading operation."

The whistling will stop soon. But the ethanol operation - and all the related noise - is expected to continue indefinitely.

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