109,000 Horn Blows Later, Finally There is Silence in Oak Lawn
Oak Lawn Patch
December 24, 2010
By Lorraine Swanson
Oak Lawn residents living adjacent to the Metra and Norfolk Southern rail line can look forward to keeping their windows open this summer. At 12:01 a.m. Dec. 14, a new federal law prohibiting trains from blowing their horns while passing through Oak Lawn went into effect.
U.S. Rep. Dan Lipinski (D-IL), along with village and Metra officials, convened at the Oak Lawn Metra Station on Thursday ?to announce the completion of the Oak Lawn's new railroad quiet zone.
"At a time of year when the song 'Silent Night' is often heard and sung, it's a great feeling to be able to bring some well-deserved peace and quiet to the residents of Oak Lawn," Lipinski said. "This quiet zone was a long time coming, and making it happen took a lot of work. But now that it's here, I know the people and businesses along Metra's Southwest Service line will truly appreciate not being woken up out of a sound sleep, or startled in the middle of the day, by blaring train horns."
The Oak Lawn Village Board set a goal in 2005 to relieve the noise of horns blowing by trains passing through the village along the southwest service line that cuts largely through residential neighborhoods.
Village Manager Larry Deetjen and trustees twice traveled to Washington, D.C., to meet with Lipinski and to press the issue of making Oak Lawn a train horn-free zone. Lipinski and village officials met with the Federal Railroad Association earlier this year to negotiate the quiet zone.
"We met the Federal Railroad Administration in a room with those supportive of Oak Lawn and those who were not," Deetjen said at a recent village board meeting. "The final conclusion is that we now have a federal law. It means that 109,000 horn blows per year will be discontinued."
Residents already are reporting that the noise from trains blaring their horns has diminished considerably since the new law took effect last week, with only a few infractions. Deetjen said there is a procedure in place, as well as fines, for particular engineers and specific trains that continue to violate the no-train-horn rule.
"I know there are enough residents out there because they e-mail me and provide specific train numbers and times," the village manager said. "If not 100 percent compliance, we'll certain eliminate many of those 109,000 horn blows."
Mayor Dave Heilmann said that while he was thankful to Metra for extending its weekday and weekend service to Oak Lawn, the payoff was more train horns.
"For years we've been hearing these blaring train horns, and one of the things I really wanted to see us accomplish was the establishment of quiet zones," Heilmann said. "Today, I'm pleased that we were able to restore peace and quiet to countless village residents. I want to thank Congressman Lipinski for his success in bringing the village and the FRA together, all of the dedicated staffers with the Village of Oak Lawn, and everyone else who worked hard to make sure the quiet zone became a reality."
Federal regulations require trains to blow their horns to signal their approach to pedestrians and drivers at railroad crossings. Communities that meet certain federal safety criteria, however, may create quiet or train horn-free zones. While trains can no longer blow their horns en route through Oak Lawn, engineers are allowed to use their discretion in sounding their horns to avoid hitting people or cars on the tracks, and in other safety emergencies.
To meet the safety requirements, the village installed delineaters at railroad crossings to prevent cars from driving around lowered train gates.
The completed quiet zone includes the crossings at Cicero Avenue, 95th Street, Kilbourn Avenue, 52nd Avenue, Cook Avenue, 54th Avenue and Central Avenue. A small quiet zone encompassing the Cicero Avenue and 95th Street crossings was established in March, according to a news release from Lipinski's office.
Lipinski aide Lenore Goodfriend is especially happy for the peace and quiet, since it was she who logged residents' complaints to the congressman's office about the excessive train horn blowing. Goodfriend is also a 53-year resident of Oak Lawn who lives a block away from the Metra/Norfolk rail line.
"This is really a godsend. It's going to help people on weekends to be able to rest and relax and enjoy themselves and not have those trains blowing," Goodfriend said. "It's going to make a big difference, especially for mommies with babies."
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