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2/19/2010 6:00:00 AM
Quiet zone may benefit town, but at what cost?
JENN IRELAND/Arizona Daily Sun
Kelly Simonson covers her ears as a train blows its horn while passing by the Fanning Street railroad crossing in Flagstaff in December 2007. During the test, people from around town gathered at the crossing or in their homes to listen to the comparison of wayside horns versus regular train horns that could reduce the amount of noise produced by trains passing through town.
JENN IRELAND/Arizona Daily Sun
Kelly Simonson covers her ears as a train blows its horn while passing by the Fanning Street railroad crossing in Flagstaff in December 2007. During the test, people from around town gathered at the crossing or in their homes to listen to the comparison of wayside horns versus regular train horns that could reduce the amount of noise produced by trains passing through town.

James Chilton
Miner Staff Reporter


KINGMAN - With Flagstaff just days away from instituting a citywide "quiet zone" along its railroad crossings, many businesses - especially hotels - are looking forward to ending the ear-piercing train whistles that keep their customers up at night.

"The hotel guys are the ones who are most concerned about it," said Flagstaff Chamber of Commerce Vice President Joe Gali. "For folks not familiar with the community, they'll come in, they'll stay at the hotels, and the horns will keep them up all night, then they'll go online and write a poor review."

As the main line from Los Angeles to Chicago, the Burlington Northern Santa Fe railroad through Flagstaff carries as many as 120 trains a day, with each required to sound its whistle as it approaches each of the city's five crossings. With many hotels located along Route 66 just parallel to the railroad tracks, the trains have caused unending trouble for both employees and guests alike.

"Namely, we hear 'I'm never going to come to Flagstaff again because of that train,'" said one hotel desk clerk who preferred not to give her name. "It all goes hand in hand with the Flagstaff experience, but that doesn't always appease the people who can't sleep at night. We get constant complaints all year."

The trains have been a pain for the Chamber of Commerce as well, since it, too, is situated next to the tracks. Gali said putting a stop to the constant whistling will prove a major benefit for members attempting to do business there.

"We're very, very excited about the prospect of not having to have the horn blow through the intersection 10 feet away from our office building, and having that horn, that sits about two stories high, blowing us out of our conference room anywhere from 75 to 125 times a day," he said.

But Gali noted the process hasn't been an easy one, with Flagstaff taking five years and spending roughly $950,000 on the studies, engineering and equipment required to get its quiet zone in place. Even now, residents on the city's east side are still lobbying for the city to spend additional money to replace their wayside horns that emulate the sound of the train whistle with less noisy but more expensive alternatives such as multiple gates or concrete medians.

Additionally, Gali said the quiet zone is only now coming online, more than a year after the original anticipated installation date. That's because, while the city did its due diligence with BNSF and the Federal Railroad Administration, they failed to realize that the Arizona Corporation Commission had a part in the process too. "The city was under the impression they could move forward after reaching an agreement with BNSF, but then the ACC said, 'Wait a minute, we haven't looked at this,'" Gali said. "It's been a long and arduous process, and if you try to seek the same results in Kingman, you need to make sure you get all your i's dotted and t's crossed with the Arizona Corporation Commission so that the project does not get held up any more than it needs to be."

So far, Kingman's leaders have expressed a desire to wait and see how Flagstaff's quiet zones work before pursuing anything similar here. The City Council has scheduled a discussion on the matter at an upcoming meeting, but what remains to be seen is how effective a quiet zone would be for Kingman's two downtown railroad crossings, and whether it'd be worth the estimated $800,000 cost.

"It wouldn't be something that'd need to be collected the following year, but if the city's going to put $800,000 into it, would it make an $800,000 impact?" asked Joshua Noble, director of tourism for the Kingman Area Chamber of Commerce.

"Most of the hotels in town currently aren't affected by the train noise since the Airway Underpass project was completed and the Louise Avenue crossing was closed. So, you're not looking at the total population of hotels that would have an impact from people choosing to stay there because of the quiet zone."

All the same, Noble noted, the trains did have a clear effect on business at the now-defunct Hotel Brunswick, which is currently seeking a new owner after closing last month. According to former Brunswick Owner and Manager Debra Sixta, the trains were one of the main deterrents to tourists spending the night there.

"The people would walk in, hear the trains, and walk back out. That happened a lot," she said.

But while a quiet zone might restore viability to the venerable hotel, Noble said, would that alone justify the cost?

"It's a difficult question to answer," he said. "I think it would have some impact on the people overnighting, but when you look at the visitors coming in, the train is part of the downtown area's heritage."



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Reader Comments

Posted: Tuesday, February 23, 2010
Article comment by: PIZZLE

@ NNP

If you had to walk 20 miles I feel sorry for you. Like you said though, most teens in your day were busy with work and chores. That is not the case today as technology has changed dramatically. I also highly doubt you had anything near what Kingman has drugwise. Sure maybe you grew up in a drug revolution but were you regularly pushed methamphetamine at school? That's the case today and a lot of the posters on here are deaf and blind to it. They think "couldnt be in my little town"

As far as obtaining employment- there isn't much in Kingman for youngsters except for very few fast food jobs (not enough to go around). If you try and get another type of job as a teen you're in STEEP competition with hundreds of ADULTS who have years of work experience or education. It's not a good time or place to grow up.

It just floors me when I see people writing like it's the young people's fault that there is nothing to do.

What did you do? Play kick the can? I'm not suggesting kids need 24/7 entertainment or satisfaction, but good god this is becoming a medium sized city and the only amenities it can provide is a tiny, years old skate park?

THAT'S THE ISSUE. Groups like RAID are killing this city and it is why no business that target young people move into this town.

Get it through your heads people this city is growing but its services are not. This is a problem and its not something the city government can fix on a whim- its a mindset problem when you have fogies like RAID ruining this place.


Posted: Monday, February 22, 2010
Article comment by: Now isn't that nice? .

From what I understand the person that started all of this, Mr. Lehr, doesn't even own the place in which he lives, HE RENTS!

Posted: Monday, February 22, 2010
Article comment by: No name provided .

Geez! Pizzle. When I was a snot-nosed kid, we had to walk 20miles to and from school in two feet of snow, uphill both ways. AND we had to worry about dinosaurs eating us, too. But, even though we didn't have a "Teen Center",a "Skate Park", the internet, drugs or TV....we still found things to have fun with, and didn't get into trouble. Of course, most of us had siblings to take care of, or work to do, before we could "go have fun".

Posted: Monday, February 22, 2010
Article comment by: PIZZLE .

"@ NNP"

Its not that children destroy everything offered to them. By that logic there should be nothing for teens and kids to do, anywhere.

But thats not the case. Why does every other city have a variety of good activities (ASIDE FROM SCHOOL AS WELL) for teens and children to take part in on their free time.

Youngsters run amock and get into trouble BECAUSE of that.

I remember when I was growing up in Kingman and Golden Valley. What exactly was there for me to do?

Get on the internet? Watch TV? Go for a walk through the desert? Party w/ friends?

I cant skate so the ONE item everybody references (skate park) is useless to me and WAY too far from where I lived (there is only 1 by the way)

School sponsored sports was fun but most kids dont like having to walk 3-5 miles home because the schools activity buses dont want to travel far.

Yeah, it sounds like a 1940's stereotype "Walking 5 miles to school and back" but in KUSD its a reality.

KYFL was fun when I was a kid but it was a LONG travel. And then that went to crap and out came Pop Warner.

But sorry-, I was too tall for them, I could only play with the HIGH SCHOOL SENIORS when I'm around 11 years old.

This town is a joke because of these types of issues.

Go ahead and blame the youth for there being nothing to do. Its obviously their fault.

Posted: Monday, February 22, 2010
Article comment by: The Wall Around Kingman

"The first train came through Kingman on March 28, 1883. Thankfully those inhabitants were happy to see and hear it. Kingman would not exist if not for the railroad. Trains are just trying to pass through safely."

And the residents now would be just as happy to see it and just as safe or safer, and NOT have to hear it. Too bad Kingman is so backward that even the residents believe that they just have to live with it.

I guess when you get sick around here you grow your own penicillan from bread mold or die.


Posted: Monday, February 22, 2010
Article comment by: No name provided

i am all for that quiet zone. I lived by tracks for many years because i couldnt afford the high rents anywhere else. I never got used to those stinkin horns blowin all day and night long!

The railroads are a bunch of stuck ups anyways. Most of the employees are snitches and stuck ups just like the railroad execs are. Im not talking just SP but BNSF also with BNSF being the worse of the bunch. I know i have many complaints regarding the railroads but believe me they are for very good reason.

Out in McConnico weve got claims thats on PUBLIC LANDS but the railroad took out all the **** crossings so people cant get out to thier claims (WORKING MINES) unless you want to go through washes and whatnot! PUBLIC LAND should mean the railroad has no right trying to close it off by taking out the crossings that was once there! The bridge out behind the Nucor plant... CLOSED OFF! The pipelines crossings... REMOVED! No other stinkin LEGIT crossings except going through washes under the railroad bridges or out off of 4th street which is VERY VERY rough and steep for most vehicles to use! I say to hell with the railroad and lets get in the quiet zone... and PROPER CROSSINGS back in out in McConnico!

Posted: Sunday, February 21, 2010
Article comment by: No name provided

Anyone who thinks that eliminating train whistles will revitalize the downtown area is delusional. Look at downtown areas in mid-sized cities across the country. Unless you bulldoze downtown and build big box stores on the lot(s), it ain't gonna happen. And I am sure that even though Flagstaff spent almost a million on studying the issue, nearly that much would be spent here even before wasting money on implementing the results. Face it folks, the mom & pop store era is long past. Admittedly, I went downtown when I needed a large object framed to hang on my wall, but that shop could have been located anywhere, and if there had been one closer to my home I would have used it.

Posted: Sunday, February 21, 2010
Article comment by: listen and learn

The first train came through Kingman on March 28, 1883. Thankfully those inhabitants were happy to see and hear it. Kingman would not exist if not for the railroad. Trains are just trying to pass through safely.

Posted: Saturday, February 20, 2010
Article comment by: Get a Clue Dude

OMG... Are you serious?? If you can't stand the sound of the trains and their horns, you need to move. The trains were there LONG before you were and the horns are there for safety.

You can't seriously expect us to be shocked and care, do you? Do you seriously expect for us to pay the crazy amount of $$$$ to pursue the quiet zone and related technology just for your comfort?

I live about 1/2 mile from the train tracks and can hear the horns. I got use to it. Sometimes it wakes me up, but I go back to sleep. It is the price that I chose to live where I live.

If you don't like the trains or sound of the horns, why did you move there?

It's like the CRAZY people who live by the airport and then complain about the airplane noise and amount of flights overhead.

If the horns did not sound and someone got killed, would you feel responsible? You should.

Move... And... please don't be my neighbor. You sound like a whiner.

Posted: Saturday, February 20, 2010
Article comment by: 120 trains a day

To Idiots,

1)"This is/has been a major freight train corridor for decades,longer than you have been alive."

Good point, one I share, which is why I do not understand why we have not updated our train system to meet the acceptable standards of at least, THIRD world countries. In all of those decades you are speaking of, we are still using the DECADES old technologies, we have no excuses!

2) "You sound like the type that would move in near an airport,knowing full well what to expect and then bitch about it."

And you sound like the type who would attack the messenger knowing the messenger is right rather than find a solution to the problem. Keep your head in the sand, if you can't hear the train, it isn't your problem, right?

For the record, 9 of the past 11 deaths from the train were intentional suicides, the other two were alcohol related.

Posted: Saturday, February 20, 2010
Article comment by: Kingman native

I just want to begin by saying the train tracks were there first. The railroad was the catalyst for the development of this town. I'm sorry if it now seems inconvenient to the residents and the businesses.

The train whistles are not there to annoy people and businesses. Pedestrians and cars repeatedly cross barriers and put themselves and everybody else in danger. The train whistles are there to warn people, and hopefully, get them out of the way! Besides, it is mandated by the federal government that trains must sound their horns when approaching grade crossings.

I totally understand the frustration people feel about the whistles, but see it from the point of view of the railroad that wants to reduce/eliminate fatalities from pedestrians and vehicles. Has anybody considered reducing the crossings at that downtown area? There are three grade crossings in a very small area. The city and BNSF could work together to come up with alternatives like another under/overpass and eliminate one of those crossings. That would definitely reduce the need for so many whistles in a short span of time.

Posted: Saturday, February 20, 2010
Article comment by: john

what a joke !! waste of $$ for you do not like the horn move!

Posted: Saturday, February 20, 2010
Article comment by: Save Downtown

This is ridiculous the downtown residents have been stripped of so much of the culture that was once so vibrant and so alluring to the tourists that visited the area. Poor business management lazy city council members not enforcing\ creating rules to make the bad business owners, investors and out of state owners clean up their filthy trashy lots and half completed construction projects. There are more important things to worry about than a quiet downtown. If the train noise is so bothersome why not move the city council to our "NEW KINGMAN" area I am sure there are plenty of expensive problems they could fix there with it being so far away from city hall that might force them to actually do something productive. Turning a blind eye to the hard to fix issues here in Kingman and focusing on the train horns that have whistled their way through Kingman for over 80 years is a Disgrace!!!

Posted: Friday, February 19, 2010
Article comment by: Idiots

@120 trains a day.This is/has been a major freight train corridor for decades,longer than you have been alive.You sound like the type that would move in near an airport,knowing full well what to expect and then bitch about it.

Posted: Friday, February 19, 2010
Article comment by: Idiots

Morons.They did that in Broward County,FL. and wound up with more Train/Vehicle collisions and then returned to the whistles.I will take safety over sleep anytime.

Posted: Friday, February 19, 2010
Article comment by: No name provided

@ Pizzle

There's nothing for youth to do in Kingman because every time somebody takes the time and effort to set up a place or a program for the youth of Kingman, they manage to rob, vandalize, and wreck it.

Either that, or somebody will get injured on the site, and the parents will go running to a slimy lawyer to sue everybody in sight.

That's why there's nothing for Kingman youth do to. Most of them are content to take drugs, be out long after curfew, play loud music, and race around the neighborhoods like morons.

Posted: Friday, February 19, 2010
Article comment by: PIZZLE

They can spend so much money on a quiet zone but they cant invest in anything else useful?

There is nothing for youth to do in Kingman except get into trouble and drugs. And compared to any town or city of the same size, Kingman is a drug mecca.

The city is becoming a laughing stock.

Posted: Friday, February 19, 2010
Article comment by: 120 trains a day

After working at the Hotel Brunswick and living downtown for over four years, I will attest that the trains are a double edged sword to the downtown redevlopemnt. Though many tourists do stop downtown for the train, they do not stay overnight. Hotel guests at the Brunswick were given complimentary ear plugs, which some guests smiled upon while others, especially Europeans could not understand why we as country were so backward in our train technology to even allow the trains to continue to blow their horns within the city limits.

I feel the trains have had a negative impact upon the redevelopment of downtown. It is a shame that we have not addressed this issue sooner as it has been brought up several times during the years past.

No matter how much money we put into the downtown area to spiff it up, as long as people have to stop talking in the middle of lunch or while shopping until the train passes to continue conversation,(I have witnessed judges in the courtrooms pause the proceedings until the train has passed) the customers of the downtown businesses will be inconvenienced and will take note.

The trains played a major part in people leaving downtown years ago and have played a major part in them not returning, whether to live or shop.

Posted: Friday, February 19, 2010
Article comment by: whistle blower

so maybe the business affected should pay the bill. i live on topeka, across the street from the track, between the s.4th street and topeka crossings. no big deal, just learn to ignore it. The noise from my humidifier is more of a nusiance. In all fairness there are some trains that get carried away with their horns and need to be reigned in. also a median baricade to prevent people from going around the gates would help. i have noticed that the horns really get going and become obnoxious when people and cars just ignore the gates and go around or some fool runs out 50 feet in front of the train to cross between 4th and 7th

Posted: Friday, February 19, 2010
Article comment by: Taxpayers raped again!

How do I get a job conducting one of these "studies". $950,000, $800,000 for equipment, and to write a report on how wayside horns are quieter? Cities across the country are almost, bankrupt, yet money gets thrown at idiotic projects like this. How about handing out free earplugs instead? Nah, they`d need to do a "study" for that too!

Posted: Friday, February 19, 2010
Article comment by: Deaths will increase

Deaths will increase with this quiet zone passing.



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