As many of us know the City of Longmont is working to implement “Quiet Zones” along the BNSF rail lines that run through the City. This seems like a welcome respite from the train horns that seem to get louder and more frequent as time goes on.
But, a “Quiet Zone” does not mean the trains won’t necessarily blow their horns anymore. It does mean the residents of Longmont will have to make some sacrifices to achieve the “Quiet Zones”. It is important, then, to understand what all of this really means to the residents of Longmont.
What is a Quiet Zone? According to the City’s website, a Quiet Zone is a section of rail line that contains one or more consecutive public crossings at which locomotive horns are not routinely sounded.
What is the City doing to try to achieve these Quiet Zones? The City hired consultants to identify measures to silence the train horns at rail crossings while also meeting various safety requirements. Those measures include full street closures as well as crossing gates / raised medians.
What you should know / Questions you could ask:
- Where the money will come from to pay for the Quiet Zones (taxes anyone?)
- What impact will full street closures have on response times for fire, paramedic, police, etc.?
- What impact will full closures have on the walkability / bike-ability of the Historic Eastside?
- Can closures impact insurance rates and home values? (especially if it comes to pass that fencing along the entire rail line becomes a necessity for safety reasons, which will effectively divide the City in that area and which the City cannot guarantee won’t happen)
- Will traffic on streets in the neighborhoods surrounding the closed crossings increase?
- Will the trains stop blowing their horns in Quiet Zones? (No – not necessarily – the train conductors may still blow the horns, at their discretion, despite having a “quiet zone” in place).
What input do Longmont residents have in this process? Not much it seems. Although the City has said it wants residents’ input on the Project, it feels as if what they have received has gone largely ignored. For example, the City’s consultants held 3 open houses and conducted some polling with residents on the Project.
However, of the nearly 100,000 residents in Longmont presently, the consultants actively engaged only “roughly 700 participants” to make their recommendations to the City. Questions directed at residents were also self-serving and misleading. For example, residents were asked: “would you support the city closing one or more crossing to expedite Quiet Zone implementation and reduce the costs.”
But, according to the consultant’s “City County Communication,” the “Staff asked residents about potential closures in order to facilitate the City’s request to the Colorado Public Utilities Commission (PUC) for a new at-grade crossing for Boston Avenue, which is in the city’s long term Transportation Plans.”
BNSF apparently has a policy of opposing all new at-grade crossings unless two closures of existing streets are proposed. So although the question was asked it was never really an option. Crossings are slated to be closed, regardless of cost or time (the difference between a full closure and a 4-quadrant crossing is only $600,000 – which is a mere drop in the bucket in an 8.5 million dollar project).
What you can do now
Educate yourself. Read the available literature; engage the City – talk to the Mayor and City Council members; come give your opinions – whatever they are – to the City Council at City Council meetings, which are open to the public; get involved in the process.
Now is the time to let your City government know what you want and how you feel on this very important issue.
It goes without saying that we all want the Quiet Zones but not at the cost of a reduced quality of life for neighborhood residents, or the cost of our personal safety and well-being of our residents being compromised, especially our young children trying to get to school, church, library, sporting events, a friend’s home or the numerous things healthy families do.
We are not an extension of Downtown but a real neighborhood. We are the first Longmont neighborhood and a part of the original Chicago Colony plan. We do not want to do anything that will cause the slow erosion of a viable, historical neighborhood by creating accessibility issues.
The information and/or documents referenced, above, including the consultant’s recommendations, can be found in the City Council Agenda of June 25, 2019 at https://www.longmontcolorado.gov/departments/city-council/agendas-and-minutes.
The video recording of the City Council meeting can be viewed at https://youtu.be/2QvH4IDCqU0?list=PL8A0A5EA9A2D2CD5C&t=12670 at 3:31:00