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posted: 12/15/2012 8:00 AM

Mundelein to retire automated train crossing horns

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  • The automated train horn at the Allanson Road crossing in Mundelein is one of seven to be removed to reduce noise, village officials decided this week.

      The automated train horn at the Allanson Road crossing in Mundelein is one of seven to be removed to reduce noise, village officials decided this week.
    Daily Herald File Photo, October 2003

  • The automated train horn at the Allanson Road crossing in Mundelein is one of seven to be removed to reduce noise, village officials decided this week.

      The automated train horn at the Allanson Road crossing in Mundelein is one of seven to be removed to reduce noise, village officials decided this week.
    Daily Herald File Photo, October 2003

 
 

Mundelein's original solution to train horn noise -- the automated horn -- will be retired and removed from crossings next month.

The removal of the digital equipment -- basically a speaker on a tall pole that produces a channeled mechanical alarm sound when trains pass -- marks the end of a 10-year run.

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"I think our action is based on the feeling of our public who want a quieter quiet zone," Assistant Village Manager Mike Flynn said. "Our residents are saying, 'Let's have a true quiet zone.'"

The village board this week waived the formal bidding process as required by village code for contracts of more than $10,000 and approved an agreement for $14,274 with Railworks Signals and Communications Inc., of Jacksonville, Fla., to remove the systems at seven crossings.

Competitive bidding was impractical because of the coordination and permitting process with the Canadian National Railroad, according to village staff members. Railworks has been maintaining the signals and is best suited to do the work, given its knowledge and expertise, according to the resolution authorizing the expense.

Whistle noise long has been an issue in town, as about 40 trains travel through each day.

"They were very disruptive. You could hear the horns throughout the community, and we got a lot of complaints," Flynn said.

The village worked with the Illinois Commerce Commission, Federal Railroad Administration, U.S. Sen. Dick Durbin and the Wisconsin Central railroad to use the automated horns as a solution. The ICC ordered the railroad to install the devices in 2002, and Mundelein became one of the first communities in the country to do so.

"It was put in as a demonstration project," Flynn said.

Studies showed the automated horns improve safety and reduce noise near crossings. In late 2003, federal authorities changed the rules and allowed the use of automated horns as an alternative to train whistles.

"Everything was great. They really were effective," Flynn said.

However, while the noise was quieted for most residents, there were still complaints from those near the crossings.

In 2005, the rules changed again and federal authorities established a process for communities to create "quiet zones" in which measures, such as automated horns, carried a certain safety value. The Lake County Quiet Zone, which includes seven towns from Wheeling to Antioch, was established.

Quiet zones have to be updated periodically and with the most recent certification in progress, the village decided it was time to remove the horns.

The extension of medians on Route 60 and at Allanson Road were among the changes made to make up for the lost safety value.

Notice that a quiet zone will be re-established without automated train horns has been approved by the Federal Railroad Administration, the railroad and the Illinois Department of Transportation.

Mundelein signed off Dec. 10 and is awaiting a final order of approval from the ICC to remove the automated horns, which is expected some time next month.

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