May 10, 1869, was a historic day when the east and west segments of the transcontinental railroad were completed, with engines touching noses at Promontory Point. Now, almost 139 years later, another red letter railroad day is coming to northern Utah Monday, when train horn noise should begin to cease.
For the thousands of residents who live near the railroad tracks between the northwest corner of Salt Lake City and stretching north to Ogden, Monday could easily be nicknamed Quiet Day.
Thanks to railroad crossing improvements associated with the upcoming FrontRunner commuter rail service, quiet zones will be in place this coming week all along the FrontRunner's service area.
Gary Uresk, Woods Cross city manager, organized the effort to get quiet zones in place along the commuter rail area. He said not only FrontRunner trains but Union Pacific freight trains will stop blowing their horns.
However, he cautioned that it may take some time before all train engineers get into the habit of not routinely blowing their horns.
"It will take a little while to phase it in," Uresk said. "I anticipate a week of working it in."
FrontRunner improvements at all of its street crossings include quad arms or concrete medians that prevent drivers from going around a crossing arm and through an intersection. Hence, less need for train engineers to sound their whistles.
Overall, Clearfield will probably see the smallest change. That's because almost all of its streets have overpasses over the railroad tracks, and train horns aren't sounded much there.
However, neighboring Sunset to the north will probably benefit the most from the quiet zones. Sunset has three at-grade railroad crossings 1300 North, 1800 North and 2300 North all located within a mile.
Rodney Hasler of Sunset lives next to the railroad tracks between the 1800 North and 2300 North crossings. He said a sign along the tracks, west of his back yard, instructs engineers to begin blowing their horns there.
"I get the full blast," he said. "Most of the time it doesn't bother me," unless he's in the back yard.
However, he said one engineer sometimes sounds the horn for blocks at a time.
"A neighbor moved out because of that," he said.
"They don't bother me," said Melda Smith, a longtime Sunset resident who lives next to the tracks. "I'm used to them. But I know they bother some people."
Uresk said trains can still sound their whistles if there is any construction going on at a crossing, or if they see any other safety need to do so.
However, the lack of routine whistles will mean much quieter days and nights for residents near the affected railroad tracks.
"These horns carry a long distance," Uresk said. "This is a real positive thing."
In fact, he said he's had more calls about this issue than anything else over the years. Most engineers are pretty good, but he said some tend to lay extra long on the horns.
In Woods Cross, train horns regularly blow at the 1500 South and 500 South crossings. Some residents can also hear the horns from the nearby 2600 South crossing in North Salt Lake.
Layton will also benefit with its five railroad crossings in the city.Overall, there are 43 at-grade crossings over the 44-mile FrontRunner distance. FrontRunner will begin service on Saturday.
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