HUNTINGTON, Ind. (Indiana's NewsCenter) -- The City of Huntington is looking into establishing Quiet Zones for trains.
People in Huntington "blew their whistles" against Quiet Zones at railroad crossings. Huntington City Council proposed the idea at a public meeting Tuesday night.
Council says Quiet Zones are about improving the quality of life, but most of the community says it’s about safety.
Fred Schenefield says several people have died in Huntington from train accidents, and eliminating the horn would increase those risks.
“If you quiet the trains and the crossing arms don't work, which does happen, what do you got? You may have someone dead,” Schenefield said.
However, Jessica Feder, Executive Director of Operation Lifesaver, non-profit public information program dedicated to reducing collisions, injuries and fatalities at railroad crossings, says two-thirds of railroad crossing accidents happen at gates with active warning signs. Feder says Quiet Zones don’t make railroad crossings less safe—that it’s ultimately up to the citizens to ensure their own safety.
“If there’s a quiet zone or not it really shouldn’t affect you because you should be paying attention anyway and obeying the crossing laws,” said Feder. “It’s your job as a citizen to follow the law, to pay attention to the railroad crossing and to always yield to the train. So whether you hear that horn or not, it’s your responsibility to make sure you’re paying attention.”
According to the Federal Railroad Administration (FRA), when Quiet Zones were first introduced in a city in Florida in the 1980s, train accidents increased by 60 percent. Now the FRA requires that additional safety barriers and restraints be built around crossing gates. Approximately 244 communities around the U.S. have implemented quiet zones, including Lafayette, Mishawaka, Munster, and Delphi in Indiana.
At the meeting, Huntington City Council brought in Mayor Randy Strasser from Delphi, to talk about his experience with Quiet Zones. He says it's taken five years and $2M to implement zones in his town. Feder echoed his testimony, saying Quiet Aones are an expensive and lengthy process. She says cities must first apply for the FRA to be considered for a Quiet Zone. After that, the city, state, FRA and Department of Transportation must conduct diagnostic reviews and studies before implementation, which can take years.
But despite all the extra bells and whistles, Feder says trains can still sound their horns through Quiet Zones.
“The rule with the quiet zone is, if there’s any sort of emergency or impending danger, the conductor or engineer is still allowed to blow the horn in a quiet zone. For instance, if they saw someone trespassing in or around the gates of the crossing, they can still blow their horn if they felt that person was in danger,” Feder said.
Council Members assured residents that safety will not be an issue, and if they do implement Quiet Zones their crossings will be safer. However, Council decided to hold off on making a decision on the matter. Instead, they decided to compile a report of priorities specific to the needs of Huntington residents and the city’s railroad crossings and will revisit the issue at their next meeting July 31.
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