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Town Officials Mull the Cost of Quiet Trains

oil train
Paige Browning
Spokane Public Radio

A tale of sound and fury is playing out in Sandpoint Idaho - the sound coming from the blare of train horns - the fury, from irate residents whose nerves are frayed and jangled. Two major rail lines run cheek by jowl through Sandpoint because of the funneling effect imposed by topography. And the number of trains rumbling through town is increasing - meaning the ear-shattering sound of train horns is increasing as well - night and day.

Sandpoint City Council members would like to impose a quiet zone in town, but it faces some formidable safety and money issues to do it. BNSF and Union Pacific trains must warn of their approaching at six rail crossings in Sandpoint.

But for the crossings to be in quiet zones, they must meet rigorous safety standards set up by the Federal Railroad Administration. They'd have to put curbing in crossing streets to keep motorists from driving around gates, or crossing gates at all four corners of each intersection. The curbing is less expensive, but it would also restrict access to homes and businesses adjacent to the tracks. Moreover, the city might have to pay for special wiring along the tracks to sense approaching trains.

Sandpoint officials haven't decided if quieter trains are worth the cost.

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