BURLINGTON — Local residents bombarded since July 1 by the around-the-clock blasting of train whistles will soon have the relief they have been seeking.
Starting at 12:01 a.m. on Monday, trains passing through the city will no longer be required by the Federal Railroad Administration to sound their horns before intersections, Burlington City Administrator Kevin Lahner confirmed Thursday.
The city received approval from the FRA to have the “quiet zone” reinstated last month after installing impenetrable barriers — cement medians — at five crossings in the city.
The federal agency took away the city’s quiet zone status a little more than three months ago when the city failed to meet an FRA deadline that required it to make certain safety improvements at the intersections.
The loss of that status resulted almost immediately in trains sounding their horns — not just now and then, but more than two dozen times per day.
No “quiet zone” has required conductors driving the roughly 26 trains that pass through the city on the daily basis to sound a standardized pattern of four whistles before each intersection — two long blasts, a short blast and another long blast.
Burlington resident Patrick Moran is happy all that honking will soon be over with.
“I had to stop my bicycle one day and put my hands over my ears,” the 57-year-old said Thursday. “All the trains that come through there have different engines and they have older and new horns on them. And the newer ones are just deafening.”
The FRA notified the city in September 2007 that if it wanted to keep its “quiet zone” status it would have five years to make certain intersection improvements.
When it was clear that it was about to miss that deadline in July, the city applied for a waiver to extend the deadline by two years, but was denied.
Although the city had already installed medians at the Jefferson Street and Adams Street crossings, it was planning to put in $400,000 “quad gates” at Milwaukee Avenue next year as part of its 2014 capital plan.
Once the horns started sounding again, however, the city decided to go ahead with the far less expensive solution of putting in medians at all but one of the affected intersections, including Milwaukee Avenue, Lahner said Thursday.
The medians aren’t exactly the preferred option, he said, especially since they can cut off access in some directions to local businesses, but they meet the FRA requirements.
“The whole purpose of it is to prevent cars from driving around the crossing arms when they are down,” he said. “The curbs present a physical barrier.”