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Railroad crossing waiver sought by mayor

Horn causing disturbances

 

Establishing a train horn quiet zone at the McPherson Street railroad crossing in Ironton continues to be an arduous process for city officials. Now more than a year after initiating contact with Norfolk and Southern, Mayor Rich Blankenship on Thursday sent a letter to the Federal Railroad Administration and the U.S. Department of Transportation requesting a waiver.

“On behalf of the City of Ironton, I am requesting a waiver of the train horn requirement in respect to crossing No. 473439C (McPherson Street) every day from 10 p.m.-6 a.m.,” Blankenship wrote in the letter. “We are requesting this waiver as a result of the detrimental impact the above mentioned regulation has on a large number of citizens who own residences very close to the railroad tracks in the vicinity of (the) crossing. The sounding of train horns from 10 p.m.-6 a.m. is very disturbing, annoying and disruptive to the peaceful enjoyment of their property by these affected citizens.”

Blankenship has authority to request the limited waiver with respect to the application of 49 CFR Part 222, aka the train horn rule, which permits locomotive engineers to begin sounding train horns at least 15 seconds and no more than 20 seconds in advance of all public grade crossings.

“It is important to note that the McPherson Street crossing is closed at all times except when flood gates must be installed in the city and it is then this crossing becomes the only access route,” Blankenship wrote. “The opening of this crossing typically occurs for a one- to two-week period with an interval of at least several years between openings.”

During his seven years as mayor, Blankenship said the flood gates have been installed once. Photographs of the crossing’s flood gates were submitted with the letter.

“In the rare instance of the opening of the crossing the city places a policeman at the crossing on a 24-hour basis and gives advance notification to the railroad that the crossing will be opening,” according to the letter. “We are not requesting the waiver apply while the crossing is open and would expect the railroad to comply with (the train horn rule) during that period of time.”

The train horn, Blankenship said, is a quality of life issue. The railroad would also bear no costs and no safety liability.

“Granting the waiver requested in this letter would be of tremendous benefit to a large portion of the population of Ironton,” he said. “Simply stated, it would allow them the basic right of an uninterrupted, good night’s sleep. There are absolutely no costs to be incurred as a result of the waiver to the private sector, to consumers, the federal, state or local governments and no compromise of safety.”

Blankenship requested a quick response.