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Quiet zone not so quiet

Train horns are still blowing in Medora even after $196,000 was spent and months of work went into a railroad crossing "quiet zone" which began Aug. 6.

"I and other city officials have heard citizen complaints on a nearly daily basis," Medora Police Chief John Bey said. "I was then asked to keep a log of the violations. I did that for about two weeks and there were violations occurring daily, sometimes even two or three times a day."

Medora Mayor Doug Ellison said the horns have been blowing much more frequently than anyone had anticipated.

"You can hear them at all hours of the day and night," he said.

Bey said there was very little decrease in the amount of train whistles after the contract was made.

"So we contacted the railroad and were told that it was going to take some time to get the engineers educated and let them know it was a quiet zone," Bey said. "So we did that, and while there has been an appreciable decrease in them, there are still too many violations occurring."

In the city's quiet zone contract there is a clause that conductors may still choose to sound their horns for discretionary reasons.

"The purpose of the train horn is to protect safety," said Amy McBeth, Burlington Northern Santa Fe Railroad spokesperson. "A quiet zone designation does not mean the horn will never be sounded, but that it is not automatically required."

McBeth said some examples are when someone or some thing is on or near the track, workers are within 25 feet of the track, if the train is stopped the engineer will blow the horn to back up or when personnel are going in-between standing equipment.

Ellison said he and other city officials have become frustrated with the railroad as of late.

"Legally there is not much that can be done about the noise since the railroad reserves the right to blow the horn when they deem necessary," Ellison said. "I just hope after receiving our logs the railroad can better explain why the horns are being sounded."

McBeth said that a maintenance crew was recently in Medora.

"That would account for some of the horns folks were hearing," McBeth said.

McBeth added that with the crew's departure, some of the horns people were hearing should have ceased.

"Our crews are aware of the quiet zone and should be complying with that designation," McBeth said. "We will follow up with them to ensure that and I encourage the city to continue communicating with us."