Bennet Talks Train Horns with Northern Colorado Officials

FRA Recently Announced It Would Reassess Its Train Horn Rules

They rival the noise of jackhammers (~100 decibels), rock concerts (~110 decibels), and jet planes (~100 decibels).

Train horns can reach noise levels of up to 110 decibels, and today Colorado U.S. Senator Michael Bennet heard from local officials and small business owners from several northern Colorado communities about the effects they have on communities.

Bennet, along with fellow Colorado U.S. Senator Mark Udall, is working at the federal level to help local communities curb train horn noise in order to create some peace and quiet and generate more economic activity, as local officials have reported the loud noise from train horns is a drawback for tourists and businesses.

Current safety regulations require the sounding of a train horn for at least 15 seconds before entering railroad crossings, unless other safety measures like flashing lights and barricades have been installed. Municipal leaders from multiple communities have reported that the costs associated with the alternative safety upgrades can be prohibitive.

Today’s meeting comes on the heels of an announcement by the Federal Rail Administration (FRA) that it would reassess its regulations around train horns, responding to efforts from Senator Bennet, Senator Udall, and local communities.

“These railroads are the fabric of many of our communities in Colorado. We’re not saying we don’t want them in our communities; in fact, we believe we’ll see more of them as our communities develop,” Bennet said. “But there needs to be some flexibility. This is a classic example of how a one-size-fits-all requirement is hurting communities on the local level. We want to find a way to balance the safety needs with the economic needs of these towns.”

“We’re not asking for anyone to forgo safety. Safety is our paramount concerns,” John Vazquez, mayor of Windsor, said. “We’re just asking the FRA to take a commonsense approach to this issue and provide a little flexibility.”

“This train horn issue makes it incumbent upon local government and local communities to fund these projects to create quiet zones,” Cecil Gutierrez, mayor of Loveland, said. “It’s a challenge for communities like Loveland, beyond just the costs, because our city was developed over a hundred years ago. Some of the infrastructure changes that are necessary to create a quiet zone just aren’t possible.”

“We shouldn’t be thinking of this as a one-size-fits-all approach,” Karen Weitkunat, mayor of Fort Collins, said. “We need to look at how these regulations affect local communities and take a commonsense approach to how they’re implemented.”

Bennet’s work on Train Horns:

After hearing from cities across Colorado, including Fort Collins, Loveland, Longmont, Greeley, and Windsor, Bennet has worked with Senator Mark Udall to advocate for increased flexibility from the FRA to help communities establish quiet zones around railroad crossings.

In January, Bennet and Udall wrote a letter to the Federal Rail Administration urging it to reopen the train horn rule for comment. They also introduced an amendment to a transportation bill in July that would require the FRA to work with Colorado communities to examine its train horn rules and consider revisions.

Over the summer, the senators urged the Senate committee with jurisdiction over the FRA to review the train horn requirements. At their request, Senator Claire McCaskill (D-MO) asked FRA Administrator Joseph C. Szabo if the agency was willing to work with communities to provide flexibility around train horn regulations. Szabo indicated a willingness to work with Congress to ensure its train-noise and quiet-zone rules protect public safety while also work for Colorado communities.