EAU CLAIRE, Wis. (WEAU)-- Choo Choo! It’s the sound you hear to warn you of a potentially dangerous situation.
But more and more, people in Eau Claire want trains to silence their whistles when chugging through town.
The main concern people WEAU 13 News spoke with Thursday is trains blowing their whistles late into the night.
While there are things cities across the county can do to silence the trains, the measures don’t come without a high price and lots of red tape.
Jerry Hoehl has lived a couple blocks away from a set of railroad tracks on the north side of Eau Claire for 11 years.
“Two, three times a night, they come through pretty frequent. Seems to be one at 2:30 in the morning,” Hoehl said.
But Hoehl might not be the only one getting his sleep disturbed.
Interim City Manager Brian Amundson said the city of Eau Claire is getting more complaints lately about the locomotives clinking, clacking and whistling through the night.
“I think part of it is the result of the sand mining and hauling the sand. So we are seeing an increase in the number of trains in the community,” Amundson said.
The Federal Railroad Administration said trains are permitted to blow their whistles when coming up to an intersection or to warn a driver stranded on the tracks.
If a city wants the trains’ whistles silenced during a certain part of the day, they would have to work with the feds to establish a quiet zone.
Amundson said that would mean installing crossing arms, signals or traffic islands at all train crossings in the city.
“We have 11 at grade crossings. Just to get the process through, it could be a bit expensive. The improvements can range anywhere from $50-300,000,” Amundson said.
Union Pacific Railroad operates the majority of the rails in Eau Claire.
It said whistles remain a safe way to warn drivers and pedestrians.
“Safety is paramount with Union Pacific. So in working with the community we want to insure that the safety at the grade crossings is adhered to,” said Union Pacific Spokesperson Mark Davis.
The only cities in our area right now with quiet zones are La Crosse and Marshfield.
State Commissioner of Railroads Jeff Plale said with sand mine trains increasing in Wisconsin; more communities could be looking into establishing quiet zones.
The Eau Claire City Council voted down a quiet zone ordinance in 2007, but Amundson said it could soon be brought up again.