Chippewa Falls City Council to discuss train noise, volume
Mar 16, 2013 (The Leader-Telegram - McClatchy-Tribune Information Services via COMTEX) --
CHIPPEWA FALLS -- For years Jane Lardahl barely noticed the trains passing just 30 feet from her condominium on the east side of Chippewa Falls.
Typically just one or two trains passed by her home each week.
Nowadays, Lardahl's home is a much noisier place. Last year EOG Resources opened a sand processing plant on the city's northeast side, and the company is transporting sand past her home via loud, rumbling trains.
"It used to be one or two (trains) a week. Now it can be four a day," said Lardahl, a Chippewa Falls City Council member.
Oftentimes those trains pass Lardahl's residence at night, when blaring horn sounds signaling a train passing through the area split the air.
City Councilman Brian Flynn said he has heard plenty of complaints from city residents upset at the increased noise as more trains hauling sand travel through Chippewa Falls.
"People are upset because of the timing of the horns," Flynn said. "It can be anywhere -- two, three, four, five in the morning. If I was on their side of town, I'd probably be upset too."
The city Committee of the Whole, comprised of the entire City Council, will meet at 6 p.m. Monday to discuss the increased train volume and noise.
Among the suggestions the committee is expected to consider is the creation of a "quiet zone," which could include a cross-arm barrier at an intersection of State Street and Pumphouse Road on the city's East Hill. But that solution could cost up to $350,000, which could make building it problematic.
Council members said there is no guarantee the trains, which are largely autonomous from city regulations, would adhere to the quiet zone.
"I think it's common knowledge it is a problem," Lardahl said of the increased train noise. "But no one has a good plan to deal with it because we don't have any power, any clout, any control. I'm hoping this meeting will give us some new ideas."
Councilman Mike Hanke, who represents the northeast corner of the city, isn't convinced a quiet zone would eliminate the noise problem.
"My concern is if we put one in (Lardahl's) Fifth Ward, how many others will be requested in the city " Hanke said.
Even if the city requests the installation of a cross-arm barrier, the railroad isn't required to install one, he added.
"There's not a whole lot the city can do," Hanke said. "As a city, our hands are kind of tied."
More train traffic
The silica sand mining boom across western Wisconsin has spurred train noise concerns in other locations. The issue has surfaced as a concern in Eau Claire, where numerous residents have complained to city officials about the growing amount of train-related noise during overnight hours.
The Eau Claire City Council included money in its 2013 budget to study the issue, although no regulations have been enacted.
It's not just sand that is causing more train traffic in Chippewa Falls. CN railroad built a rail intermodal facility -- a large, outdoor train car storage warehouse -- that opened in February 2012. Those train cars are shipped to British Columbia a couple of times each week.
Officials from all train companies in the city, including Progressive Rail and Union Pacific, have been invited to attend Monday's meeting.
"I hope everyone comes to the table," Flynn said. "It has to start with conversation. Hopefully, this meeting will give us direction."
Vetter can be reached at 715-723-0303 or firstname.lastname@example.org.
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