At Delegations Urging, Administrator Feinberg Met with Community Leaders and Viewed Challenges First-Hand
Northern Colorado - Today, Colorado U.S. Senators Michael Bennet and Cory Gardner, as well as Congressman Jared Polis and local community leaders, met with Federal Railroad Administrator Sarah Feinberg in Fort Collins and Loveland to discuss the agency's train horn rule and the need for more flexibility to establish quiet zones.
Communities across Colorado have expressed concerns with the FRA's rules, which require trains to blow loud continuous horns through towns unless the communities meet rigid requirements for quiet zones. Since January 2013, the delegation has urged the FRA to reopen the rule and consider revisions to offer communities more flexibility to create quiet zones. In March, the FRA announced it would take public comments as it considers potential changes. The comment period closes on July 5, 2016. Bennet, Gardner, and Congressmen Jared Polis, Ken Buck, and Ed Perlmutter invited Feinberg to visit Colorado during the comment period to see firsthand how the train horn rule is affecting businesses and residents in the region.
"Train horn noise causes serious problems for Colorado communities. It interferes with new businesses, residential development, and economic growth," said Bennet. "For the past several years, we've worked with local leaders and the FRA to find commonsense solutions that acknowledge the important role railroads played in our state's development while still providing communities with the flexibility that they need to grow. We're grateful that the Administrator came to Colorado to see for herself the challenges cities and towns are facing, and we are hopeful she'll incorporate what she has learned today into meaningful policy changes that balance safety concerns with quality of life."
"Train horn noise is a Washington-born problem in need of a local solution," said Gardner. "This is yet another example of the failure of Washington's one-size-fits-all approach. That's why I invited FRA Administrator Feinberg to visit Colorado and hear from local officials firsthand about how to best preserve safety precautionary measures while simultaneously maintaining peace in their communities. I'm hopeful Administrator Feinberg found the visit insightful, and I urge her to consider Coloradans' ideas moving forward."
The Administrator toured downtown Fort Collins with Bennet, Gardner, Polis, and local business owners and officials including Fort Collins Mayor Wade Troxell. Current train horn rules result in trains having to blow their horns continuously along the entire 10-block area through downtown - where the community has been working on economic revitalization. On the tour, the Administrator heard first-hand how the noise negatively affects everything from classes at Colorado State University to local businesses to residential development. She was also able to see the additional infrastructure Fort Collins has invested in to combat noise and traffic delays and to accommodate local mass transit projects.
"The City is encouraged by the FRA's willingness to come to Fort Collins and continue working with the state and municipalities regarding train horn noise in urban settings, which impacts our residents and businesses," said Fort Collins Mayor Wade Troxell. "Without compromising safety, we are looking for solutions for addressing the FRA's horn rule to improve our community quality of life, health of our residents, and economic wellbeing of our businesses."
Bennet and Gardner also hosted a roundtable meeting in Loveland where Administrator Feinberg met with representatives from Fort Collins, Loveland, Longmont, Boulder, Greeley, Commerce City, Louisville, Berthoud, and Windsor to receive feedback on how current rules are working. Loveland City Council Member Joan Shaffer discussed the socioeconomic effects of the noise including how it relates to local businesses, quality of life, and economic revitalization of downtown areas. Gerry Horak, Executive Director of the North Front Ranch Metropolitan Planning Organization, talked about the need for flexibility in the regulations to meet the needs of Colorado's unique communities. Windsor Mayor Kristie Melendez highlighted the usefulness of quiet zones and the challenges in designating them.
"Fort Collins, Loveland, and all of Northern Colorado are known as wonderful areas to reside and raise a family, but the train horns are a nuisance - nearly everyone agrees," said Polis. "I'm relieved that the Federal Railroad Administration is finally willing to hear directly from the community about the unbearable noise. While listening is a necessary first step, I commit to persisting until the Federal Railroad Administration takes action and removes unreasonable barriers to Quiet Zones."
"Loveland has been at the forefront of the Train Horn noise issue for a long time," said Loveland Mayor Cecil Gutierrez. "We are pleased that FRA Administrator Feinberg is visiting Loveland and Northern Colorado for a firsthand view of the issues we face. We believe that there are solutions for maintaining safety at our crossings without the negative impacts currently being experienced by our citizens. We are eager to be active partners in crafting creative, flexible, and affordable solutions."
Colorado communities not able to attend today's meeting have until July 5 to submit comments on changes they would like FRA to consider.