For Moorhead, Minnesota, freight trains have been part of the community since it’s inception. As such areas blossom, the demands of the railroad and the needs of local townspeople sometimes clash, requiring innovative solutions that maintain industry growth without running roughshod over personal liberties. One of the residents’ biggest complaints is noise pollution produced by loud train horns. This has led to a number of programs aimed at dampening the trains’ bellow.

Are quiet zones the answer?

According to Federal Railroad Administration (FRA) field surveys, train horns create noise levels in the range of 57 to 106 decibels, which is at the high end of the scale and the equivalent of a jet at takeoff or a jackhammer. While these levels could cause serious hearing damage at high exposures, many people simply find the repetitive horn blasts a nuisance, much like overhead air pollution near airports. In response, communities have developed train-free quiet zones.

Moorhead, for instance, created the Metropolitan Train Whistle Quiet Zone in conjunction with its nearby neighbor Fargo to minimize the impact of rail noise on the central business district, while instituting safety features to protect the public. The Fargo-Moorhead zone is the longest quiet zone in the nation, covering 20 public and private rail crossings and 4 track miles.

What are the dangers of quiet zones?

The Fargo-Moorhead area had suffered from a rash of pedestrian fatalities along the railway prior to instituting the quiet zone, the safety features of which have apparently improved the prospects of local pedestrians and motorists. In other metropolitan areas, critics maintain quiet zones are actually the cause of serious injuries, with the lack of train horns preventing people from avoiding accidents.

A man who lives in the Sacramento, California area claims a horn saved his life when a train collided with his truck. He, therefore, vehemently opposes quiet zones. Like other critics, this man believes that quiet zones can only contribute to National Transportation Safety Board statistics indicating that a train strikes a person or vehicle about every two hours. He maintains that had he not heard the train’s horn, he never would have put his truck in reverse and avoided a life-threatening crash.

It’s in the best interests of train accident victims to speak with a qualified legal team immediately afterward to determine which parties are at fault and to assign responsibility for their injuries.