Sandpoint mulls railroad quiet zone - Spokane, North Idaho News & Weather KHQ.com

Sandpoint mulls railroad quiet zone

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Some Sandpoint residents want trains in the area to quiet down. Some Sandpoint residents want trains in the area to quiet down.
SANDPOINT, Idaho -

Trains are coming through Sandpoint, Idaho, 50 times a day.

"We're anticipating it's going to go up to around 80 a day," says Sandpoint Public Works Director Kody Vandyk.

Vandyk says Sandpoint is a choke-point for trains coming through northern Idaho. To alleviate stress on the tracks, BNSF is pushing forward with a new rail bridge over lake Pend Oreille, they say it will help with congestion. Vandyk and other city leaders, however, expect the new rail bridge will bring even more trains rolling through town.

While the city can't say no to the amount of trains coming through, they can say "keep it down." That's what they're doing after a number of residents voiced their opinions saying the train noise is bringing down the quality of life in the city.

"There is a train horn rule which is a federal law which allows cities to institute a quiet zone," says Vandyk.

Vandyk is currently looking at all six rail crossings that come through the city, entertaining the idea of quiet zones at all of them. BNSF spokesman, Gus Melonas says taking away the train's ability to blow its horn reduces the amount of security at those individual crossings.

"Per Federal Railroad Administration, which is the U.S. governing body that regulates the railroad industry," says Melonas. "We have to abide by the whistle requirement, that being, we sound the horn four blasts."

According to the Federal Railroad Administration, rail companies cannot deny a city the right to issue a quiet zone. Instead, companies then have to meet with city officials at rail crossings they use and issue opinions on what safety measured need to be taken otherwise.

"There are a lot of things we can do," says Vandyk. "We can install what is called curbing, which prevents drivers from going in between the crossing arms, or we can even install more arms."

Since the city enforces quiet zones, they are the ones who have to pay for all new safety measures.

"They range from curbing, $25,000 - $30,000 per crossing, to extra gates which is about a quarter of a million dollars per crossing," says Vandyk.

Vandyk says at this point it's too early to tell where funding would come from to cover these costs, and any request for a quiet zone needs to be approved by the Federal Railroad Administration.

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