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Longmont, Colo., to spend $150,000 for quiet zone consultant

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City officials hear a lot of complaints from residents who hear too much noise from train horns, the Longmont Times-Call reports.  In fact, Longmont City Councilwoman Sarah Levison calls it "Sleepless in Ward 2." But the only way the city could put a hush on train horns through Longmont is by developing "quiet zones" at the 17 BNSF crossings in the city - a project that city officials have never fully studied.

That’s why the Longmont
City Council voted unanimously to spend $150,000 to hire a consultant to come
up with conceptual designs and cost estimates for railroad crossing quiet zones
in Longmont and review possible funding sources. The money, which will come
from the city’s street fund, will pay a consultant to work with the BNSF, the
Federal Railroad Administration, the Public Utility Commission and the Colorado
Department of Transportation on the complicated project.

In 2005, the FRA came up
with new horn standards for train engineers when approaching street crossings,
including sounding a horn for at least 15 seconds before entering a crossing.
At the same time, the FRA came up with a way to get around its new horn
requirements: "quiet zones" – a stretch of rail line at least half a mile long
where trains would not have to sound their horns.

Developing quiet zones at
the 17 BNSF crossings in Longmont could cost as much as $6 million, city
engineer Nick Wolfrum said, so phasing them in is the best – and most efficient
– option.

There is no easy way to
estimate how much it would cost to make each crossing a quiet zone, Wolfrum
said. Simple fixes may be possible at some crossings – such as spending $50,000
to build medians to keep drivers from cutting around the gates, while other
crossings may cost as much as $500,000 to meet federal requirements for medians
and crossing signals.

The crossings at Colo.
Highway 66 and 21st, 17th and Mountain View avenues could be done individually,
but the crossings from East Ninth Avenue to Terry Street would have to be
grouped because they are so close together, Wolfrum said.

Crossings at Ken Pratt
Boulevard, South Hover Street and 17th Avenue would be the least expensive
because the city could install medians to prevent drivers from cutting across
in front of an approaching train. But installing quiet zones at 21st, 17th and
Mountain View avenues would muffle train horns for the most residents, Wolfrum
said.

Councilman Brian Hansen
suggested looking at how many residents each crossing would affect – and coming
up with a cost per resident formula – rather than only counting the overall
cost of making a crossing a quiet zone.

"It seems like we’re
trying to impact the most residents for the least amount of money possible," he
said.

Mayor Roger Lange and
Councilwoman Karen Benker both urged the city to move forward as quickly as
possible.

"It’s a serious problem.
It’s an obnoxious problem," Benker said.

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