Amendments Would Require Plan to Improve Train-Noise Rules, Reallocate Funds to Make Railroad Crossing Upgrades Less Burdensome to Local Taxpayers
Citing the concerns of local residents, business owners and leaders throughout the state, Senators Michael Bennet and Mark Udall introduced measures today to require that the Federal Railroad Administration work with Colorado communities to find ways to make its rules for establishing railroad crossing quiet zones less burdensome.
Colorado cities and towns have struggled since 2005 with Federal Railroad Administration rules that require expensive railroad crossing upgrades for communities that want to stop freight and passenger trains from blaring their horns in residential and commercial areas throughout the day and night. Leaders from these communities have raised concerns that train noise undermines economic development and hurts their communities' quality of life.
"Communities in Colorado want safe railroad crossings. They also, reasonably, want a little more peace and quiet," Bennet said. "These towns are working hard to attract businesses to locate in newly-revitalized areas, but the train horn noise is stifling economic development. The Federal Rail Administration has expressed a willingness to be flexible, and these amendments will help local communities achieve and pay for reasonable modifications to quiet the horns while also ensuring public safety."
"Coloradans are frustrated that the Federal Railroad Administration's train-noise rules simply do not provide viable alternatives for communities that want to shield their downtown areas and residential neighborhoods from train noise. I am confident we can find a way forward if we bring everyone to the table," Udall said. "This legislation will ensure that the Federal Railroad Administration and Colorado communities can plot a viable way forward that ensures railroad crossings are safe and do not undermine our economic development or quality of life."
"We appreciate the leadership of Senators Udall and Bennet on this important municipal issue," said Sam Mamet, executive director of the Colorado Municipal League. "The amendment addresses both the costs involved in mitigating train noise in cities, and a fair balance in seeking some regulatory relief as well."
Bennet and Udall's amendments to the Transportation, Housing and Urban Development and Related Agencies Appropriations Act would require the Federal Railroad Administration to work with Colorado communities to examine its existing train horn rules, consider revisions to those rules and report its findings back to Congress within 180 days. The end goal is to make the agency's quiet-zone rules easier to implement while also protecting public safety.
The amendments also would re-appropriate a portion of $42 million in unused federal transportation funds that have sat idle for five years. These funds would be made available for the U.S. Department of Transportation for competitive grants to help cities offset the costs of upgrades necessary to create so-called "quiet zones."
Bennet and Udall have worked tirelessly to protect public safety while also ensuring that train-noise regulations do not stifle job growth, hamper economic development and detract from Coloradans' high quality of life. Pressure from Bennet and Udall forced the Federal Railroad Administration to promise in June to work with Congress to ensure its train-noise and quiet-zone rules protect public safety while also working for Colorado communities. Bennet and Udall also have pressed the Federal Railroad Administration to be more flexible in how it allows Colorado towns and cities to meet its quiet-zone requirements.