William Arnold says train engineers blow their horns for far too long at street crossings in his Albany neighborhood, so he is taking steps to try to get something done.
One time during the night, he said a horn sounded for a solid 45 minutes while a train sat near his house.
Arnold, 39, lives on Denver Street S.E. three houses away from tracks used by the Union Pacific and Portland & Western railroads. He said the long blasts disrupt his sleep and cause him to miss things people tell him on the phone.
Arnold said when he contacted representatives from Union Pacific to complain, he was told crews follow the Federal Railroad Administration’s rules governing whistle use.
But Arnold said he has researched those rules and for the most part they are not followed in Albany.
Attempts by the Democrat-Herald to contact railroad officials about what regulations they follow were unsuccessful.
Arnold said his plan is to gather petition signatures in his neighborhood from people also bothered by the noise. Then he will go on the Internet to try to reach even more people in Albany.
Once he has the number he thinks is enough — that total has not been set — he will take the petition to the city council.
“I want the council to put some pressure on the railroads to comply with the federal horn rules or make Albany a whistle-free community,” he said. “In the meantime, I’m going to file a complaint with the FRA.”
According to the Railroad Administration, engineers must sound horns for a minimum of 15 seconds and a maximum of 20 seconds in advance of a crossing.
Albany Councilor Ralph Reid Jr., who sits on the Area Commission on Transportation and has become knowledgeable about trains while on the city council, said no one has ever complained to him about the length of train horn sounds.
He said between 25 and 28 Union Pacific freights go through Albany in a 24-hour period, and the Portland & Western operates another three to seven. Amtrak’s Coast Starlight and Cascades passenger trains also pass through the neighborhood.
There are about nine crossings between Madison and Davidson streets and whistles are blown at each one. Reid said it would be costly to make the necessary changes at crossings so Albany could be a whistle-free zone.
Chris Adams, the regional grade crossing manager for the FRA in Vancouver, Wash., said that to qualify for quiet-zone status, railroad crossings must have specific restraints installed to prevent drivers from zig-zagging around crossing gates ahead of an oncoming train.
Gates must extend across all lanes of travel, or a 100-foot long median could be created. Another option is to close the crossing entirely, she said.
Arnold has no plans to move because he likes his landlord, his rent is reasonable and he enjoys Albany. He moved from Memphis about a year ago.