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Public Statements

Letter to Chairman Warner and Senator Blunt - Revision of FRA Regulations

Letter

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Colorado U.S. Senators Michael Bennet and Mark Udall urged the Senate Subcommittee on Surface Transportation and Merchant Marine Infrastructure, Safety, and Security in a letter to review the need for revisions to the Federal Railroad Administration's (FRA) regulations for train horns. The Senators said they hope that revisiting the rule will give Colorado communities the flexibility they need to confront train noise -- which can hurt businesses and residents near crossings -- and protect public safety.

Under current rules, established in 2005, communities can apply to create "quiet zones" where train horn rules are relaxed if the community puts other specific barriers and warning signals in place to alert motorists and pedestrians. Unfortunately, the requirements that communities must meet to establish quiet zones are complicated and often too expensive. A number of Colorado municipalities have estimated that the studies and infrastructure necessary to comply with FRA regulations could cost millions of dollars.

"We strongly support the Train Horn Rule's goal of safety by reducing accidents at highway-rail grade crossings. We are concerned, however, that the current requirements for establishing a quiet zone may be too inflexible, preventing certain municipalities from reducing the train horn noise without incurring prohibitive costs" the Senators wrote in a letter to subcommittee Chairman Mark Warner and Ranking Member Roy Blunt.

Bennet and Udall urged the Subcommittee to add more leniency to the requirements for implementing quiet zones so that communities can efficiently and affordably revitalize urban areas and still prioritize public safety.

"Municipal leaders from Fort Collins, Loveland, Longmont, Greeley, Windsor and Denver, Colorado have expressed concerns to our offices that train horn noise is a nuisance for local residents and that it stifles economic development by discouraging businesses and housing developers from building and locating in the heart of their communities. This is especially true for downtown areas that are focused on urban renewal, and are investing in building healthy and walkable neighborhoods. We hope to work with the subcommittee to pursue further review of the train horn rules' existing requirements. By providing an opportunity for cities affected by train horns to participate in your deliberations, the subcommittee can help Colorado municipalities work to resolve this issue," the Senators wrote in their letter.

The Subcommittee on Surface Transportation and Merchant Marine Infrastructure, Safety, and Security will be holding a hearing on rail safety on Tuesday, June 18.

Full Text of the Letter is Below

June 13, 2013

Dear Chairman Warner and Senator Blunt:

We write to request that your subcommittee examine the need for revisions to the Federal Railroad Administration's (FRA) rule governing train horns. As the subcommittee turns its attention to reauthorizing passenger rail legislation and begins considering possible improvements to railway safety, we ask that you scrutinize the current impact of FRA train horn regulations at appropriate hearings in the coming year, including the rail safety hearing scheduled for Tuesday, June 18th next week.

In 2005, the Federal Railroad Administration published the train horn rule in response to Congressional legislation. The rule was designed to promote safety by requiring train operators to sound horns at certain decibel levels when passing through city crossings. The rule allows municipalities to apply for "quiet zone" status, relaxing the train horn requirements when certain specific barriers and warning signals are installed at crossings to alert motorists and pedestrians.

We strongly support the Train Horn Rule's goal of safety by reducing accidents at highway-rail grade crossings. We are concerned, however, that the current requirements for establishing a quiet zone may be too inflexible, preventing certain municipalities from reducing the train horn noise without incurring prohibitive costs. Many affected communities have trains that run through downtown areas with multiple crossings. The modifications that FRA is asking them to make as a prerequisite to achieving quiet zone status can cost millions of dollars, far beyond the limited resources available to many of these towns and small cities. A more flexible rule could enable these communities to craft a solution that reduces noise and promotes long-term economic growth while at the same time ensuring the safety of residents and commuters.

Municipal leaders from Fort Collins, Loveland, Longmont, Greeley, Windsor and Denver, Colorado have expressed concerns to our offices that train horn noise is a nuisance for local residents and that it stifles economic development by discouraging businesses and housing developers from building and locating in the heart of their communities. This is especially true for downtown areas that are focused on urban renewal, and are investing in building healthy and walkable neighborhoods.

We hope to work with the subcommittee to pursue further review of the train horn rules' existing requirements. By providing an opportunity for cities affected by train horns to participate in your deliberations, the subcommittee can help Colorado municipalities work to resolve this issue.

Thank you for your consideration of this request.

Sincerely,

Michael F. Bennet
United States Senator

Mark Udall
United States Senator


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