Town Wants Trains to Shut Up `Horns' of a Dilemma: Safety vs. Sound Sleep Rail Crossing Accidents

Article excerpt

EVERY TIME A TRAIN rumbling through Shrewsbury sounds its horn, a police officer writes a summons.

In October, Shrewsbury passed an ordinance forbidding train engineers to blow horns except in emergencies. City officials hope to allow uninterrupted sleep for residents who live near the tracks - and to that end, police have sent 15 tickets to attorneys representing Burlington Northern Railroad Co.

Shrewsbury, a community of 6,400, lies between St. Louis, Webster Groves, Maplewood and Affton. It is one of about 20 communities in the metropolitan area - including St. Louis - and more than 200 communities throughout Illinois with whistle bans. Ed Purvis, the alderman who introduced the bill, said he had received numerous complaints from Shrewsbury residents about the "loud, long whistles sounding at all hours of the day and night." Last year, Purvis said, two railroad companies merged, and train traffic in Shrewsbury increased 40 to 45 percent. Annette Riney, who lives in the 7300 block of Lansdowne Avenue, said trains blowing horns "bothered us a lot, especially when they would go by at 10 or 11 p.m. The engineer would blow that horn and just hang onto it. It scared us - it was loud enough to shoot you right out of bed." snnn The attorneys for Burlington Northern at the Brasher law firm in St. Louis have received the tickets, but a spokesman there said Thursday: "The issue has not been resolved. We still have some time on this." Jim Sabourin, a spokesman for the railroad at the corporate offices in Fort Worth, Texas, said Thursday that ordinances such as the one passed in Shrewsbury "show no concern for safety." "We will continue to blow whistles at crossings," said Sabourin. He cited a five-year study conducted by the Federal Railroad Administration reporting that railroad crossings with whistle bans had 84 percent more accidents than those where horns sounded. In 1994, Congress passed the Swift Rail Development Act, which required all trains to blow their whistles as they pass through rail crossings. Communities with whistle-blowing bans were expected to drop the bans or install expensive equipment, such as four-quadrant crossing gates, to block cars. The law was to go into effect last November. That didn't happen. …