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New Railroad Crossing Directs Train Horn At Cars, Not Residents

Nathan Heffel
Senator Mark Udall, resident Diana Ayala and Congressman Ed Perlmutter at a new quiet zone crossing.

A new type of railroad crossing, one touted as both an effective way to keep people safe and significantly reducing train noise, was unveiled Friday in Commerce City.

It’s called a wayside horn crossing. Trains never actually blow their horn through the zone. Instead an audio box mounted high above the crossing blasts a digital train horn sound directly at cars, significantly reducing noise pollution from passing trains. The $8 million upgrade to the crossing also includes new crossing gates and higher medians preventing cars from driving around them.

Credit Nathan Heffel / KUNC
The audio box blasts a digital train horn sound directly at cars at the crossing.

Diana Ayala’s home is across from the 96th Ave and Hwy 2 crossing in Commerce City. Before the new system, trains would blow their horn at all hours of the night.

“You have conductors lay on their horn consecutively, no break all the way from 104th to 88th Ave., right through our community at two in the morning, your windows are open you’re startled to death,” Ayala said.

Federal Railroad Administration rules require trains to sound their horn a minimum of 15 seconds prior to arrival at a crossing. Democratic Senator Mark Udall said with multiple crossings in close succession, the horn may never stop.

“Train noise sounds like a small issue, but as the residents and business here can attest, train noise threatens economic development the growth of main street businesses, and resident’s quality of life,” Udall said.

Under pressure from area residents, Senator Udall and Democratic Congressman Ed Perlmutter urged the Federal Railroad Administration to approve a horn waiver for the crossing. That allowed Commerce City to install the wayside horn system.

Cities in Northern Colorado, including Fort Collins are also exploring options to limit train horn use, while not breaking the bank. In November 2013, Federal regulators agreed to look into allowing trains going through Fort Collins to limit their horn use, while not requiring substantial infrastructure improvements. A decision on that could come as early as this spring.

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