Castle Rock resurrects quiet zone for trains passing through downtown

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Councilmembers revived an effort to stop the noise that disrupts downtown Castle Rock.

Town council on March 5 got an update on the downtown quiet zone, a year-long goal to stop passing trains from whistling as they pass through downtown.

The town considered a quiet zone in 2009, opting for modifications at Fifth Street and medians on both sides of the tracks where they intersect Second and Third streets. The cost of the crossing improvements for the quiet zone exceeded $752,000, prompting councilmembers to table the plan.

Councilmembers budgeted for another look at the cost in 2013 in hopes of having a quiet zone in place by 2014. The original bid expired after six months and one of the first steps will be to get an update on the cost, said Bob Watts, transportation planning and engineering manager.

The Union Pacific Railroad provides construction estimates and also performs all construction of the quiet zones, Watts said. The use of the train whistle is written into federal law, which was amended in 1996 to allow for quiet zones if the applicant can show the crossing will be equally safe, whether the whistle is sounded or not.

The railroad deals with dozens of applications across the country and in recent years installed quiet zones in Monument, Arvada, Winter Park and Commerce City, Watts said.

Councilmembers heard from residents urging them to install a quiet zone. People reported nighttime disruption caused by the train whistle in neighborhoods from Red Hawk and The Meadows to the west, the Woodlands to the east and Plum Creek south of downtown.

Greg Shim, a downtown acupuncturist, worked with a client to lower his blood pressure and was back to square one once the patient was exposed to the train whistle.

“He moved his business next to the tracks and within six months his blood pressure started going back up,” Shim said. “There are significant health impacts to the people around the horn.”

The quiet zone is not guaranteed to stop all train whistles, Watts said. The train crew has the final word on whether or not to sound the whistle, he said.

“The engineer always has the option to sound the horn if they perceive a danger,” Watts said. “If they see a pedestrian by the tracks who doesn’t seem to be paying attention, maybe the pedestrian is hearing-impaired and doesn’t know a train is approaching. From what I’ve heard from other towns, it doesn’t happen that frequently, but it does happen on occasion.”

 

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