Local News

Raleigh residents grumble about trains' loud rumble

Posted May 4, 2009 5:45 p.m. EDT
Updated May 4, 2009 6:21 p.m. EDT

— Raleigh resident Daryl Grout said he has no place to escape when trains come rumbling down the rails blowing their horns near his home at West condominiums in downtown.

He and other residents have petitioned the city to silence the trains and institute a quiet zone at five intersections. The changes would cost the city $300,000-$400,000 per crossing zone, according to the state Department of Transportation.

Grout organized a petition of hundreds of downtown residents and brought their concerns to City Councilman Thomas Crowder. Raleigh public works officials are investigating the issue.

"Hearing the train come by once in a while is one thing, but when they're laying on the horn it could be pretty disrupting," Crowder said.

Grout moved to the new West condos in October and said he has had to listen to freight and passenger trains’ loud horns at all hours of the day and night. The railroad is next to several new developments.

“Imagine an air horn in your ear. It’s extremely loud,” Grout said. “I’ve lived in cities my whole life and I’ve never had to deal with something like this."

Mike Kennon, manager of Raleigh transportation operations, said trains are required to blow their horns when approaching intersections. Creating a quiet zone at those crossings would mean adding new equipment to make the intersections safer, and would be costly to the city.

“These kinds of issues will come up as there are more people downtown living there 24 hours a day,” said Raleigh Mayor Charles Meeker.

Drew Thomas, a crossing safety engineering manager with the DOT’s railroad division, said the DOT can’t spend any money on the project. The city would have to apply to the Federal Railroad Association to create the quiet zone. The DOT would serve in an advisory role.

To create a quiet zone, one of the options is to build a four-quadrant gate that would deter people from running around the gates, similar to one at Blue Ridge Road and Hillsborough Street near the N.C. State Fairgrounds.

Charlotte and Greensboro city officials are also looking at creating quiet zones, according to the DOT.

Helen Kiser has lived off Capital Boulevard for 15 years and said she has no problem with the trains’ horns.

“You can hear it at night, and you can hear it in the daytime, and I love it,” she said.

Losing the horns would be like losing a piece of history, according to Kiser.

“That brings back so many memories and it's wonderful for our grandchildren to get a sense of what this country used to be like. That used to be the only way to travel,” she said.

For Grout, the historic nature of the horns is not enough to keep the sounds around.

“It's a new neighborhood. We have to transition from industrial to residential, so there will be some work that needs to be done and this is just one of our projects,” he said.