Driven by complaints of explosions in trains running through Pasco, the city is examining what it would take to create a “railway silence”.
The city council reviewed state and federal requirements for quiet areas during a workshop in July, but has taken no further action since then.
Steve Worley, director of public works, acknowledged that it would be a large and costly order for the city to install the crossing arms and other equipment needed to justify a quiet area.
A 2005 federal rule requires train operators to sound the horn in urban areas and at places where streets cross tracks at ground level, which means they do not pass above or below the tracks.
Horn blasts can be reduced if certain safety measures are in place, including cross arms, signals, and other mechanisms to keep people and vehicles out of the path of oncoming trains.
“There are quite a few requirements related to the elimination of train horns,” Worley said.
The city has not assessed how many crossings it has or whether there is enough distance between them to meet legal requirements for a quiet area. The July session offered an overview of what is required, but no cost estimate.
According to a recent presentation by a Federal Railroad Commission safety specialist, costs can range from $ 30,000 per crossing to over
$ 1 million, depending on the number of crossings and improvements required.
Trains are part of everyday life in Pasco. Major rail lines run through the community, carrying people (Amtrak) and goods (BNSF and UP).
Another complication is the BNSF Rail Yard in Pasco. Trains must sound the horn on entry and exit.
“Unfortunately in Pasco there are several tracks going in and out of the yard that don’t provide the necessary space,” he said. “It’s going to be quite difficult to meet.”
To pursue a quiet area, the city should identify all level crossings and identify the necessary steps. For example, all public crossings must have lights, gates and indicators in the event of a power failure. Private level crossings must be well signposted.
Quiet areas of the railways are frequently discussed. The most recent federal inventory, from 2019, indicates that there are a handful of quiet areas in Washington state: Connell, Mukilteo, Seattle, Spokane Valley, Stevenson, Washougal, Wenatchee, and White Salmon.