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Comments supporting quiet zone needed

45-day online period ends Jan. 30

Ironton Mayor Rich Blankenship’s effort to establish a train horn quiet zone at the McPherson Street railroad crossing began this past July. According to a Dec. 22 letter from the Federal Railroad Administration the process could soon be over.

FRA administrator Joseph Szabo notified United States Rep. Bill Johnson (R-6) that a decision about Blankenship’s petition could soon be made.

“FRA carefully reviewed the petition and determined that it conforms to FRA requirements,” Szabo wrote in the letter. “There will be a 45-day public comment period. The FRA will give full and fair consideration to the waiver petition and any submitted comments.”

The 45-day period to post comments began in mid-December and ends on Jan. 30.

The FRA informed Blankenship in early December his request has been assigned the docket number FRA-2014-0122, which contains all documents pertaining to the request for the quiet zone and allows for interested citizens to post comments. Comments can be added and searching the docket number at www.regulations.gov.

“People need to add comments about why the quiet zone is needed and why it should be granted,” Blankenship said. “The more comments we have in support of this petition the better. We need people to do this. This is the most progress we have made in this effort and we need to do everything we can to keep it going.”

Blankenship requested a waiver of compliance from certain provisions of Title 49 Code of Federal Regulations, Section 222.21(a), more commonly known as the “Train Horn Rule,” several times in 2014, most recently on Nov. 19.

The reason, Blankenship said, is “the train horns diminish residents’ quality of life and a quiet zone should be established because the McPherson Street crossing is not used full time.”

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.

According to the FRA’s website, the Train Horn Rule states locomotive engineers must begin to sound train horns at least 15 seconds, and no more than 20 seconds, in advance of all public grade crossings in a standardized pattern of two long, one short and one long blasts.

The pattern must be repeated or prolonged until the lead locomotive or lead cab car occupies the grade crossing. The rule does not stipulate the durations of long and short blasts.

A provision in the Train Horn Rule allows localities nationwide to mitigate the effects of train horn noise by establishing “new quiet zones.” In a quiet zone, railroads have been directed to cease the routine sounding their horns when approaching public highway-rail grade crossings.

Train horns may still be used in emergency situations or to comply with other Federal regulations or railroad operating rules. Localities desiring to establish a quiet zone are first required to mitigate the increased risk caused by the absence of a horn.

The quiet zone would be in place from 10 p.m.-6 a.m.