Eau Claire City Council hears idea about adding train quiet zones to city

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Kelsey Jonas spent part of her afternoon outside, running and soaking up the spring like weather. Her neighborhood off Putnam Street is a quiet place. But about six times each day, that peace and stability is rattled with loud whistles of trains passing by.

"I definitely notice it at night and it wakes him up occasionally," she said about her child.

Day and night, train whistles can be heard around the neighborhood.

"Whenever I'm up with him at night and lay him back down sometimes the train will go by and I'm like no please don't wake back up," she said.

But that noise could become a thing of the past if a proposed quiet zone is set up in the area. It would eliminate train whistles at certain crossings in parts of Eau Claire.

An outside consulting firm was brought on last year by the city to look into the idea. On Monday night, the city council learned more about the $3.3 million price tag and the logistics of how it would work.

The idea is to set up two separate quiet zones that would cover areas like Putnam Street, Galloway Street, Centre Street and Melby Street. An average of five to six trains pass by parts of those streets each day.

Train whistles would no longer sound at those locations day or night. But before that could happen - several improvements would need to be made at the crossings before they were deemed quiet zones. That includes adding crossing arms, flashing lights, a power-out indicator and a median in the road.

"A median along the center line would prohibit cars from driving around the crossing arm and accessing the tracks," said Eau Claire City Engineer David Solberg.

All of this brings up the idea of safety. That audio cue that signals an on-coming train would no longer be there. Solberg says based on the calls he has gotten, people have been more concerned about cost rather than losing the whistle.

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