Train noise troubles residents

By Marlena Hartz: CNJ staff writer

The blaring sound of honking trains rips Donald Gunter from his sleep three to four times a night.

“It just drives you up the wall,” said Gunter, a Farwell resident who lives about five blocks from Burlington Northern Santa Fe Railway tracks.

Gunter has had enough. He is one in a small band of Farwell and Texico citizens lobbying for quiet in the rural towns which straddle the Texas-New Mexico state line.

Many in communities across the U.S. are doing the same, according to Burlington Northern Santa Fe Railway spokesperson Lena Kent.

Kent said the quest for quiet was prompted by a regulation passed in the July 2005, which requires locomotive horns be sounded as a warning to highway users at public highway-railway crossings. By federal law, train engineers must blow their whistles as they approach highway-railway crossings for at least 15 seconds, unless communities near tracks establish quiet zones through the Federal Railroad Administration.

To establish quiet zones — in which a stretch of track is exempt from horn blowing, except in emergencies — communities must implement safety measures such as gates or lights near crossings, Kent said.

A quiet zone is exactly what Gunter wants. He and his neighbors will lobby Farwell and Texico city officials to jump on board during a Texico City Council meeting at 6:30 p.m., today, and a Farwell City Council meeting at 5:30 p.m., Nov. 19, he said.
Establishing a quiet zone can be costly, Kent said.

“One of the biggest challenges is the cost of implementing safety measures,” she said.

Two other sound solutions can also be pursued, she said: Eliminating crossings or building an overpass or underpass at crossings.

Many have opted for the first.

In the last three years, some 3,000 highway-railway crossings have been closed, Kent said.

All railroad crossings in Farwell and Texico have lights and gates.