Steilacoom’s Town Council voted 4-1 at its Sept. 18 meeting to approve a quiet zone at the town’s two railroad crossings. It will be another six months before the Automated Horn System is in place, Mayor Ron Lucas explained.
The council appropriated up to $130,000, including a $20,000 contingency fee, to pay for the system’s installation. The Town also is required to carry additional liability insurance.
While the Automated Horn System (AHS) will be installed at the Union Avenue crossing, none will be installed at Sunnyside. Special markings will be placed at that site to alert pedestrians. Railroad Controls Limited (RCL) of Texas will now handle the horn system placement process.
Research into transforming the waterfront crossings into a quiet zone was prompted as a result of mounting frustration from citizens whose homes overlook the Sound and the tracks. The number of trains operating along the waterfront route for more than 90 years has been increasing. More trains are expected as a result of expansion at the Ports of Tacoma and Seattle.
The number of residents asserting increasing discomfort from the sound of passing train horns is relatively small, but they prevailed in their quest for relief.
About a dozen SHS students had the opportunity to hear local history made that evening. Mayor Lucas provided background information for them about the issue.
Before a decision was made each councilmember explained his/her reasons for/against the Quiet Zone.
Councilmember Bruce Judson, citing concern for the Town’s ability to afford the system versus other more important town expenses, cast the dissenting vote. He reminded listeners that the council’s decision only affected the sound of train horns. Neither train weight nor aromas from diesel fuel will be impacted.
Councilmember Milt Davidson, a long-time Steilacoom resident, who was raised in the family home not far from the railroad tracks, said that his decision was something over which he had debated for a long time. It was probably the most “difficult decision” he had faced thus far in his council tenure.
Although Davidson and his family had long been accustomed to the sounds of passing freight trains, he sympathized with those who assert that the quality of their lives is impacted by the noise.
For now the Automated Horn System has a green light to proceed in Steilacoom.
Submitted by Nancy Covert