A Whistle-Blowing Dispute Elburn, Union Pacific Can't Find Common Ground

By Gonzalez, Veronica | Daily Herald (Arlington Heights, IL), August 9, 1999 | Go to article overview

A Whistle-Blowing Dispute Elburn, Union Pacific Can't Find Common Ground


Gonzalez, Veronica, Daily Herald (Arlington Heights, IL)


Byline: Veronica Gonzalez Daily Herald Correspondent

If Elburn leaders would just close First Street, the train whistles would stop.

They're the whistles that have been blowing countless times a day, more or less, since the 1850s, when the railroads first laid track through what would become the village's downtown.

They're the whistles that, like clockwork, jolt longtime resident Dave Anderson out of bed every morning between 2 and 3 a.m., three hours before he has to get up and open his aptly named The Grocery Store.

Oh sure, Anderson says, he functions fine and doesn't feel tired. All the same, he'd appreciate it if the engineers would stop blowing the whistles so excessively - especially at night.

"We wish everyone had common sense," said Anderson, who's been hearing the whistles for 55 years. "They wouldn't do it in their own neighborhood."

The whistles would stop in Elburn if village leaders would agree to close or restrict traffic on First Street, Union Pacific Railroad officials said a few weeks ago.

But village board members say they can't comply because such a move would hinder ambulances trying to get to emergencies south of the tracks, not to mention the impact on a business and private driveways that are close by.

That's the bottom line in a decade-old whistle-blowing dispute between Elburn and Union Pacific that's reached higher decibels the past three years. At the heart of the issue is safety.

The most recent wrinkle unfolded last month, when Union Pacific sent Village President James Willey a letter rejecting the town's plea to stop the whistles.

Elburn officials had requested a quiet zone and in return promised to make safety improvements at the village's two crossings at Route 47 and First Street.

Village officials pledged to install a median barrier at Route 47 and longer crossing gates at First Street. The village also would install a fence to deter folks on foot from crossing the tracks.

Union Pacific turned down Elburn's request, however, saying the longer crossing gates at First Street potentially could trap drivers between the gates.

"The problem is, people panic. A guy goes by one gate, then the gates come down, he could panic and stay there," Union Pacific spokesman Tom Zapler said.

Instead, Union Pacific gave Elburn three options: close First Street, make First a one-way street or install 75 to 100 feet of median barriers.

Village leaders say they can't do any of those things to the First Street crossing.

For starters, Elburn only has two places to cross the tracks in town, and closing one of them - the First Street crossing - would leave residents with only the Route 47 crossing, Willey said.

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