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home : opinion : columns April 29, 2016

8/17/2014 6:00:00 AM
Guest Column: Train blasts overdone - and unsafe
Greta Warren
Kingman Resident

A response to "Train noise part of life in Kingman," published Aug. 12.

Most of us are well aware that Kingman came into existence, in a large part, due to the trains. However, when Kingman got its start, there were only a few trains a day, not one every 15 minutes. The train whistle was a gentle whistle lasting a few seconds, not an ear-splitting horn blast of more than a minute and a half.

The train horn did not become a problem until the increase of imported goods (that has put many Americans out of work) reached the point that an average of approximately 100 trains pass through our town each day (and night).

Accompanied by the government's need to protect those individuals who are breaking traffic laws by ignoring either signals at the track crossing or skirting around the arm which blocks the crossing, the Federal Railroad Administration stepped in and made it mandatory for trains to sound their horns at grade crossings while completely ignoring any need for fencing to run along the tracks to prohibit pedestrians or vehicles from crossing the tracks where there is no designated street.

This law is the equivalent of insisting that freight trucks be required to blast their horn every time they are at an intersection. After all, these trucks typically haul a great amount of weight and it is not easy for them to come to an abrupt stop when someone has illegally entered the intersection (e.g., run a stop sign or traffic signal).

49 CFR (Code of Federal Regulations) Part 222 indicates that "locomotive engineers must begin to sound train horns at least 15 seconds, and no more than 20 seconds, in advance of all public grade crossings" and that "Train horns must be sounded in a standardized pattern of two long, one short and one long blasts. The pattern must be repeated or prolonged until the lead locomotive or lead cab car occupies the grade crossing. The rule does not stipulate the durations of long and short blasts."

Five percent of the engineers "toot" the horn; for many, it is a competition of how loud and long they can lay on that horn. Additionally, the trains sound their horns at crossings even if there is already another train heading the other direction crossing over these streets.

If the purpose of the horn is to alert individuals that a train is about to cross the street, why is it necessary to sound the horn when another train is already present?

Now, regarding your comment, "If people don't like hearing a train horn, then they shouldn't have bought a house that is close to the railroad tracks" - tough to even begin to address this statement.

Many people have owned their homes in the Historic District of Kingman long before the train horns became such a nuisance. Perhaps you should warn people who live or own businesses on the Northeast side of Kingman to move; there is an airport over there and although the traffic is light, there may come a day that it is a thriving airport. Imagine over 100 planes a day taking off and landing there.

Businesses in the area struggle due to the frequent train horns; there is a basic inability to hold a conversation when the trains are sounding their horns. Check with the local hotels/motels and find out what their business is like and what is the major complaint of customers.

Regarding safety: the train horn blasts completely obliterate the sound of emergency vehicles: fire trucks, ambulances and police car sirens. That person who "didn't see a train coming, but heard the horn" needs to be more aware of his/her surroundings; it's the same person who is going to interfere with emergency vehicles because now he/she cannot hear them.

I can't help but notice that all those opposed to the Quiet Zone live a comfortable distance from the train crossings. They have forgotten the Basic Rule of Democracy: "If you don't live there, you don't get a say."

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