Goshen News, Goshen, IN

March 27, 2013

Work begins on a quiet zone that would lessen train noise in Goshen

By ROGER SCHNEIDER
THE GOSHEN NEWS

— GOSHEN — The first step was taken Monday to create a quiet zone along the Marion Line Railroad through Goshen.

Long a desire of many Goshen residents, a quiet zone would require gated railroad crossings and other safety improvements so train engineers would not have to blow their engine’s horn at each of the 12 crossings from College Avenue to Lincoln Avenue along the Ninth Street corridor.

The Goshen Board of Public Works and Safety hired American Structurepoint Inc. for $20,500 to provide on-call technical assistance and coordination to establish the quiet zone. Norfolk Southern Railroad operates the Marion Line, which turns south from the main rail corridor at Lincoln Avenue and goes south through Goshen to Marion, Ind.

City officials have to meet federal and railroad guidelines to establish a quiet zone. On Tuesday, City Engineer Mary Cripe walked with railroad and transportation officials along the line, stopping at each rail crossing to take measurements and notes.

Getting louder

As that on-site work was occurring on a cloudy, snow-specked spring day, Bill McDonald was helping his customers inside his warm and cozy hair salon, Ten O Five along South Ninth Street.

“In all the years I have been here, I have not heard them (train horns) so loud,” McDonald said. “When I am outside I have to cover my ears.”

He said the train horns are often so deafening, that when he is inside on the phone talking to a customer, he has to move to the far side of his building so he can be hear and be heard.

Marie Stoltzfus has lived along College Avenue just east of the railroad for decades. Tuesday she was at Ten O Five.

“You sort of get used to it,” she said of the train noise. “But if you are talking on the phone, you say ‘there’s a train,’ and you just stop talking for a while.”

McDonald said he is in favor of the quiet zone and would also like to see other improvements in the corridor, including a bicycle/pedestrian trail along Ninth Street.

“There are a lot of neat things that can be done on this corridor,” McDonald said.

But he is still an advocate of railroads.

“Trains are good,” he said. “That’s what makes the economy work.”

He said he has noticed over the years that when the economy is picking up there are more freight trains using the Marion Line. And when there’s a downturn there are fewer trains.

The community effort to create a quiet zone gained momentum when the city’s planning department held public hearings the past two years on improving the Ninth Street Corridor. The idea was popular among those attending the meetings.

According to a city brochure on the corridor plans, the creation of a quiet zone will be a multi-year project that most likely would require different phases of construction. Gates and other safety devices would have to be installed at crossings and funding, most likely from federal sources, would have to be obtained.

Hard to do business

Elizabeth Plank can see from her office chair every train that passes along the Marion Line. She can also hear them.

“Ya, you do,” Plank said of getting used to the re-occurring train horns. “But when you are working here its hard to conduct your business when the train is going by.”

Her grandfather, Aldin Plank founded a printing company that is now known as Rapid Ribbons, a trophy and awards business at 505 S. Ninth St.

And it’s not just the horns near the business that are a bother, it’s also the horns at the dozen crossings along the corridor that can be heard.

“There are so many intersections along the road they (engineers) feel the need to blow the whistles all the way down,” she said.

According to information from the Federal Railroad Administration, the “Train Horn Rule” states, “Locomotive engineers must begin to sound train horns at least 15 seconds, and no more than 20 seconds, in advance of a public grade crossing.”

The rule requires engineers to sound the horn with two long blasts, one short and then one long. The blasts must last until the engine is in the crossing. Also, train horn volume must be 110 decibels. A minimum 96 decibels is acceptable.

Not a fan

Bob Miller grew up in Goshen and has lived with the many impacts of two railroads bisecting the city. He’s not too concerned about the train horns.

His business, Bob’s Collision, is at 815 S. Ninth St., just a wrench-throw away from the tracks on the other side of the road.

He said he attended some of the Ninth Street corridor meetings, but became disenchanted with the idea of re-creating the corridor.

“I don’t care,” Miller said of the train noise and the effort to create a quiet zone.

“In this area it’s M-1 (zoned for manufacturing),” Miller said. “There are railroad tracks. When they spent a ton of money on the Ninth Street (plans)... that brought that Indianapolis area consultant up here to find out what’s going on with the corridor, that set me off right away.

“I know the area. It’s commercial and industrial,” Miller continued. “When people built their homes here it was industrial. If you buy a home here you know it’s industrial. It’s still going to be industrial no matter how much they spend.”

He said he sees interactions every day between motorists and trains, and some of the motorists don’t use common sense. He said he watched recently as a driver darted in front of a train that was just three to four lengths of an automobile away.

“People do that every day,” he said.

But the responsibility for safe driving lies with drivers, according to Miller and extensive crossing safety gates are not needed.

“They want to spend millions of dollars to protect people from themselves,” Miller said.

Miller and his wife Karen both nodded affirmative if they notice the frequent horns.

“Over the years, train horns have gotten considerably louder,” Miller said.

“And longer,” Karen added. She said engineers use their horns almost continuously from College Avenue to Lincoln Avenue.

Still, Miller indicated he can’t see the need to spend taxpayers’ money on the corridor project.

“It’s a railroad,” Miller said.