DENVER — Trains have long been a part of a Colorado’s rugged history. But now some communities question whether the government’s push for safety is pitting it against their quality of life.
Next month, the head of the Federal Railroad Administration, Sarah Feinberg, will visit northern Colorado to see the impacts of blaring train horns on residents and businesses.
The FRA is re-evaluating the strict use of train horns. Some people say something has to change.
“The beauty of an alley house is I have an expansive front yard I get to work in and relax in,” Kelly Elefant of Denver said of her front yard brimming with beauty.
She also has a very calm dog named Mason.
“I tell myself (the yard) is for him. But I think it’s also for my blood pressure,” she said.
But her evenings are anything but quiet.
“He lays on the horns pretty good and you know some nights I’m lucky to fall back asleep. Other nights, I am up. It’s stressful and frustrating,” Elefant said of the train engineer who jolts her out of sleep when sounding a horn at 4 a.m. or 5 a.m. on the nearby BNSF tracks.
She asked the FOX31 Denver Problem Solvers to publicize an upcoming effort for communities to quiet train horns across Colorado. The FRA is considering changes to a 2005 rule requiring trains to sound their horns louder and more often.
Engineers must sound the horn four times for at least 15 seconds as they approach a public crossing.
“It’s rather shortsighted. Are a lot of people at 4 a.m. sitting on Santa Fe waiting to cross, not paying attention and needing that horn? There are hundreds of thousands of us now sleep-deprived and cranky,” she said.
Hundreds of others have written the FRA with similar complaints.
“Multiple blasts, directional horns, ridiculous decibels, all hours. …These are insane proportions in the name of safety that actually do nothing more to affect said safety,” Amelia Hurst of Niwot said.
“Please stop the unnecessary noise. STOP!!! The train noise seriously impacts my(sic) and my partners’ health,” Eric Merkt of Nederland wrote.
“The ear-splitting sounds … greatly disturbs our tenants and makes our properties less desirable to rent,” Jane Olson of Boulder said.
Elefant said rules meant to promote safety could actually harm when people don’t get the restorative sleep they need.
“All of these negative things that happen: Your stress levels and your productivity levels, and our tolerance for other people. It may be naive to think the world would be a better place if we got a full night sleep. But it’s frustrating. It’s aggravating. Life is hard enough without getting a full night’s sleep to face the day sometimes,” she says.
Feinberg will visit with public officials in northern Colorado on June 17. Meetings might be scheduled in Fort Collins and Loveland, but there are no general public meetings with her.