(La Porte, IN) - The sound of train horns blaring every half hour or so will stop in the City of LaPorte, as a long sought-after quiet zone designation given final approval recently by the Federal Railroad Administration will go into effect on Tuesday.
La Porte Economic Advancement Partnership Executive Director Bert Cook said silencing the horns on one of the busiest rail lines in the nation running through the heart of the city has been one of the strategies pursued for making the downtown more user-friendly. He also believes the quality of life impact will be noticeable, not just along the Norfolk Southern tracks, but several blocks to the north and south of the line.
“So many homes, so many businesses are located in close proximity to the tracks, the quiet zone will be an amazing change for the positive,” he said.
Work on achieving a quiet zone designation by the city started more than a decade ago when two crossing arms on each side of the tracks were installed at several locations such as Tipton and Tyler streets to improve safety. Most recently, LaPorte Assistant City Planner David Heinold said yellow reflective posts or bollards were installed in the median leading up to crossings on Boston, Detroit, Madison, and Pulaski streets.
The idea of the bollards is to make sure drivers are aware they’re approaching a crossing and provide a barrier designed to prevent them from veering around the gates at crossings still protected by a single crossing arm on each side.
Heinold said signs reminding drivers and pedestrians on sidewalks to look both ways before crossing the tracks were also installed to complete the final quiet zone requirements.
“We went through a process and then the Federal Railroad Administration came out and inspected it and made sure we had all of the required safety improvements in place,” he said.
Heinold said trains will be allowed to blow their whistles in the event of a safety issue, like an object or person spotted up ahead on the tracks. He added that the quiet zone designation will be reviewed by the Federal Railroad Administration every couple of years or if an accident with a train occurs.
The designation, from Orchard Avenue on the west side to Boston Street on the east side, could be lifted or suspended until the city completes any additional safety upgrades that might be ordered.
“I think it’s a good community aesthetic and something that other communities I know like,” Heinold said.
Cook said one of the objectives is to lure additional visitors by providing a more relaxing or calming experience downtown. He described the horns as loud enough to pause conversations in places like restaurants with outdoor dining and disrupt hospital patients at Northwest Health, which is practically beside the rails.
Northwest Health was among the financial contributors to the safety improvements and other work necessary to obtain quiet zone status.
“Think about being a patient at the hospital where you’re in recovery and you’re trying to rest and you’ve got train horns going off 60 times a day. That’s a big deal,” Cook said.