Proposal could silence train whistles in Clinton

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A proposal could quiet loud train noises in Clinton, Iowa, during the overnight hours. Fourth Ward Councilman Paul Gassman proposed the idea to the City Services Committee at a meeting last week.

"I spent the entire summer in the city's campground right here on the riverfront, and many, many times every night a train would wake you up, and it deters people from wanting to use the riverfront, go to ballgames, and actually when you're at the showboat trying to watch a play, it's a deterrent," said Gassman.

Federal law requires trains to sound their horns, but "quiet zones" are allowed with certain safety requirements. Though the city is still in the early research phase of the idea, Gassman hopes to quiet the horns on the Canadian Pacific Railway between 10 p.m. and 7 a.m.

Plenty of residents like the idea.

"My 3-year-old gets woken up from it, so its pretty loud," said Lisa Albin.

"It doesn't bother me that much, but a lot of people like my husband, it does," agreed Katherine Houston.

Some railway workers, though, are critical of the idea, saying train whistles are the best warning they have, especially at crossings that don't have a signal.

"I've almost been hit by a train on the way to work. It's a safety issue; it's very important to have the whistles, I feel," said Mary Connell, who works at a business along the tracks.

And Gassman agrees that changes would have to be made to meet federal safety requirements.

"We'd either have to close this, or put some sort of gate up," said Gassman at a downtown crossing without barricades.

That's what researchers are looking at now -- just how much work a quiet zone would take and what it would cost. In the meantime, residents said they'll put up with the noise like they have for as long as memory serves.

"It's so loud that it sounds like its coming through my office at times, not just the whistle but the train itself, but that's just part of having a business by the railroad tracks," said Connell.

Quiet zones are in place in other railroad cities like Burlington, Iowa, and Morrison, Illinois. Gassman said the proposal would likely be a project for next summer at the earliest in Clinton.

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