It’s been years since South Bend residents have heard train whistles at railroad crossings inside the city limits.
That could end as early as midnight on Friday night going into Saturday.
"Grand Trunk Railroad will begin sounding its horns at City railroad crossings where its trains travel. This has not happened for a long time, and it is the result of Grand Trunk’s determination that the City railroad crossings have not been equipped with adequate safety measures to dispense with horn blowing for safety purposes."
This will pose as a returning issue for residents on the east side of South Bend.
The full release from the City of South Bend:
The Grand Trunk Western Railroad’s attorney informed our office on July 20, 2017 that tomorrow (7/22/2017) Grand Trunk Railroad will begin sounding its horns at City railroad crossings where its trains travel. This has not happened for a long time, and it is the result of Grand Trunk’s determination that the City railroad crossings have not been equipped with adequate safety measures to dispense with horn blowing for safety purposes.
Grand Trunk’s decision affects its railroad crossings at the following intersections:
The background to this situation is that nearly fifty years ago, South Bend established “quiet zones” by ordinance. Around 2003 by Interim Rule, and then by final rule-making action on June 24, 2005, the Federal Railroad Administration (FRA) pre-empted local train whistle bans due to safety concerns. It set maximum sound levels for when and how train horns were to be sounded, and provided an opportunity for local communities to create quiet zones. Cities, like South Bend, which had previously had quiet zones through local regulation were subject to slightly different rules.
South Bend was certified on April 9, 2007 by Ron Ries, Staff Director at the FRA, Washington, D.C. as having a proper quiet zone for the above Grand Trunk crossings and also including four Norfolk Southern Crossings, located at Caroline Street, Twyckenham Ave., Vernon Street and Leer Street. That notice stated that the City’s quiet zone conformed to law “because the Quiet Zone Risk Index (QZRI) of 13003.56 is below the Nationwide Significant Risk Threshold (NSRT) of 19047.
However, since that date, the FRA has established updates which are required for a quiet zone to continue in existence. This includes the duty to implement within the quiet zone certain Supplemental Safety Measures (SSM’s). It is my understanding that when South Bend first established its quiet zone, it identified the SSM’s it would install or implement, but then did not do so in a timely manner. The absence of these SSM’s at the Grand Trunk crossings is what I further understand has triggered Grand Trunk’s decision to sound horns at its crossings.
The City Engineering Dept. did install the appropriate SSM’s at three Norfolk Southern crossings, and understood from conversations with the regional FRA manager that this action would temporarily satisfy the preservation of the City’s entire quiet zone as long as its Quiet Zone Risk Index remains below the Nationwide Risk Threshold. However, now, the same federal official is taking the position that all SSM’s must be installed to preserve the current Quiet Zone or the City will lose its quiet zone status.
PLAN OF ACTION (UPDATED 5:30 7/21/2017):
As of June 29, 2017, and based on the installation of the three (3) SSM’s, the City’s Quiet Zone Risk Index is below the National Risk Threshold. We are in communication with the railroad companies and the FRA about our compliance with the Quiet Zone. We will provide more information as it comes available regarding our efforts to maintain the enforcement of the City’s Quiet Zone.