OUR OPINION: Railroad quiet zones could silence horns

Railroads and Tupelo joined forces in the late 19th century when rail travel and commerce was the fastest, most widespread and arguably most powerful private-sector economic resource in the United States.

The working partnership and commonality of interests continue, but virtually everyone who deals regularly with the long and frequent trains using the tracks passing through on the BNSF and Kansas City Southern railways would agree that noise and delays become problematic.

The City Council on Tuesday delayed but did not reject action on a proposal that could lead to silencing most of the train horns sounded on both railroads as locomotive engines approach grade-level crossings with city streets. The Federal Railroad Administration’s procedures dictate how long and how often trains must sound warning blasts on approach, but those rules can be waived if crossing arm guards prevent vehicle encroachment on tracks.

Mayor Jack Reed Jr. said Tuesday the city has been working quietly with BNSF and KCS railroads’ officials on a plan that would qualify most of Tupelo’s crossings as a quiet zone without required warning horns. We believe that idea is workable and the study plan should be approved so action can move closer.

Many other cities of differing sizes have gained that exception, but once approved the quiet zone can be revoked, as happened in Grand Island, Neb., a city of 46,000, which has two major rail lines crossing in the city. Grand Island, in 2012, achieved the requested exceptions to crossing horns, but a near collision of a pedestrian and a train caused the Union Pacific line to cancel its quiet zone exceptions. The city and railroad are renegotiating that status.

Mayor Reed said his proposed study moving toward quiet zones in Tupelo is more accurately an analysis to make sure all the designated crossings meet the specifications.

The infamous, traffic-snarling Crosstown grade level crossing at West Main and Gloster in Tupelo originally was not to be included in a quiet zone, but considering it may come up. Moving trains more quickly and quietly through that linchpin intersection would make sense.

Tupelo is not alone in having issues with railroad noise. Oklahoma City is moving toward seeking quiet zones. Tulsa, Okla., is considering expanding its quiet zone crossings.

Tupelo is considering a good direction in dealing with a solvable quality of life issue.

NEMS Daily Journal

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