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Blowing their own horn

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By The Staff

COMMERCE CITY — Johnny Cash may have been tormented by the sounds of the nearby train whistle in “Folsom Prison Blues,” but residents of the Eagle Creek neighborhood are now enjoying the relative silence.

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U.S. Sen. Mark Udall, Rep. Ed Perlmutter and Commerce City Mayor Sean Ford gathered at the intersection of 96th Avenue and Highway 2 on Friday, Jan. 24, to mark the new quiet zone at the 96th Avenue railroad crossing.

The quiet zone is the result of an application with the Federal Railroad Administration that had been supported by Udall, Perlmutter, Sen. Michael Bennet and Commerce City Council to seek a waiver from federal rules regarding train noise at crossings.

The 96th Avenue crossing will now have an automated horn system, which delivers a longer, more-consistent warning for the 1.5-mile area along the railroad track. It’s one of more than 126 “quiet zone” crossings nationwide and the fifth in Commerce City; it’s also the first in Colorado to utilize a wayside horn system, which is mounted on a pole at the crossing rather than on the locomotive itself.

“Communities throughout Colorado are wrestling with costly regulations governing how they can ease train noise without compromising residents’ public safety or businesses’ ability to grow. However, communities like Commerce City are leading the way and showing other cities and towns how to protect public safety and strengthen residents’ high quality of life without breaking the bank,” Udall said. “I am proud to have championed Commerce City’s case in Washington, but this effort is far from over. I will keep fighting to ensure that the Federal Railroad Administration never loses sight of the on-the-ground effects its rules and regulations have on local communities, Main Street businesses and job creation throughout Colorado.”

The new horn system was demonstrated with the crossing of a locomotive during the presentation Jan. 24, noticeably less noisy than the previous train-mounted audible warnings yet still recognizable to nearby pedestrians and motorists.

Commerce City Mayor Sean Ford touted the quality-of-life benefits of the new system for the residents of the Eagle Creek neighborhood.

“For years our residents have told us that train noise is a problem. For safety reasons, the horn sounds at all hours of the day, but that means also means disruption to daily life. Being able to fix a challenge facing our community is the responsibility of local government and Commerce City took it very seriously,” Ford said. “As a result, we’ve had an immediate impact on our residents and thousands across the country who have similar situations.”

Pressure from Udall, Perlmutter and Bennet helped prompt the Federal Railroad Administration to promise in June 2013 to work with Congress to ensure its train-noise and quiet-zone rules protect public safety while also working for local communities. Udall and Bennet also have urged the Federal Railroad Administration to be more flexible in how it allows Colorado towns and cities to meet its quiet-zone requirements.

“Today, we have a safer intersection for Commerce City residents,” Perlmutter said. “Through this process, Commerce City proved their willingness to make investments at railroad crossings to improve safety for their constituents and enhance the quality of life in their city and save the surrounding neighborhoods from unnecessary and irritating noise. I will continue working with Senators Udall and Bennet and the rest of the congressional delegation to cut through government regulations and red tape and make sure our federal guidelines provide flexibility for communities as they work to make our cities safer.”

Sam Mamet, executive director of the Colorado Municipal League, also hailed CML’s role in helping achieve the new quiet zone.

“This outstanding effort of Commerce City is another example of how important it is to get train horn noise relief for all cities in Colorado and the strong partnership we need from Washington to help municipal leaders address an important community issue,” Mamet said. “A lot of work went into the Commerce City project and will serve as a great best practice from which other cities can learn. CML was pleased to play a role in helping Commerce City.”