In recent years, more and more people have complained about the number and volume of train horns echoing through the Fountain Valley. Upwards of three dozen trains a day, mostly coal trains, rumble back and forth.
And engineers laid on the horns when they approach crossings at Main Street and Fontaine Boulevard in Security and Widefield. At night, they kept more people awake than a free porn movie on cable TV.
Until midnight, Wednesday, that is.
Now, the BNSF Railway and Union Pacific Railroad trains that use the tracks and roll through silently — or as silently as massive 270 ton locomotives can be pulling 50 or 60 cars with steel wheels grinding across steel rails and click-clacking over crossings, trestles and wooden ties.
Credit for the quiet zone goes to Security resident Fran Smith and El Paso County Commissioner Dennis Hisey. They worked for 18 months to secure the quiet zone.
Security-Widefield residents are lucky. The quiet zone probably would not have been possible if the Colorado Department of Transportation hadn’t rebuilt U.S. Highway 85-87 a few years ago. In the process, CDOT upgraded the crossings at Main Street and Fontaine Boulevard, installing expensive new gates, medians and sensors necessary to meet quiet zone standards.
One key to Smith and Hisey’s success was Colorado Springs Utilities’ agreement to reroute an access road to an electric power substation at Main Street. CSU agreed to close a driveway that led to the tracks and use an east entrance.
Hisey is tickled to get the quiet zone designation. But he says it will not be easy with other communities, like Fountain to the south, where tracks cross streets and horns still blast. Those crossings have not been upgraded and it’s not feasible to do it.
For example, a complete set of four new sophisticated crossing gates, with flashing lights, medians to block anyone from driving around the barricades and sensors, cost upwards of $250,000 per intersection.
Another option is installing automated train horns mounted to existing gates and lights. They blast 100 decibels of precisely timed noise directly down on the intersection. Experts say the result is a 98 percent reduction in horn noise. But they cost $80,000 or more.
Another option, called a remote sensor system, carries a price tag over $100,000.