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dubone

Train noise in Uptown

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http://www.charlotte.com/mld/charlotte/11593598.htm

If the crossings are upgraded to prevent cars from shimmying around the arms, trains will be allowed to pass through without honking their horns.

This will have a DRAMATIC effect on the quality of life in older, in-town areas across the country, including downtown Charlotte.

There are very few things that i really dislike about living in uptown charlotte, but constant train horns is one of them. This ruling will not immediately affect uptown charlotte, though, when it goes into effect this summer, but over the next few years, as railroad improvements are made as part of the high speed rail corridor, and the multimodal station, and the north corridor, this will gradually decrease the amount of train horns heard.

I must say that i was shocked at the price tag of $100k for upgrading a crossing.

If this ruling is upheld, i hope to see the city participating in upgrading most of the crossings within a 3 or 4 mile radius of T&T, as that is were there is the most significant concentration of people and railroad crossings.

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$100,000 is actually a lowball estimate for installation of gates at a grade crossing. You have to install train detection circuits, flashing lights, a control system, the gate itself, and then it all needs to have a backup power source as well... as you can imagine it's no small piece of work.

On the positive side, and in case you haven't already heard, North Carolina has one of the most comprehensive grade crossing upgrade programs in the nation. There are several staffers at NCDOT devoted specifically to this program (the "Sealed Corridor Initiative") and they generally manage to get 90% federal funds for the crossings that they upgrade.

As opposed to many places in other states, where even some heavily traveled lines don't have so much as a crossing gate, North Carolina has been working for years to close redundant crossings and improve / grade separate the ones that remain. Nearly every public crossing on the Raleigh-Charlotte line has been upgraded to a standard where a horn ban might be permitted with little additional work. Private grade crossings are a bigger problem, because the state doesn't want to spend $100,000+ dollars on a farmer's driveway, but those are typically found in more rural areas where there is no way to readily provide access except over the tracks.

I know that Cary, for example, has already done studies to figure out what it would take to implement a quiet zone through downtown. I can imagine that towns like China Grove or Thomasville would be pretty eager to do so as well.

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A waste of money. The government shouldn't have to do this. If people wouldn't be complete morons and go around the crossing arms or try and race trains or even, dare I mention, look both ways before crossing the tracks, this wouldn't be a problem. If all of the above is ignored, the blame should solely rest on the offender. Also, I had heard that the tracks themselves, even the part that crosses roads are private railroad property and if you violated the "rules" mentioned above that person is supposed to be liable, not the railroad company.

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A waste of money. The government shouldn't have to do this. If people wouldn't be complete morons and go around the crossing arms or try and race trains or even, dare I mention, look both ways before crossing the tracks, this wouldn't be a problem.  If all of the above is ignored, the blame should solely rest on the offender.  Also, I had heard that the tracks themselves, even the part that crosses roads are private railroad property and if you violated the "rules" mentioned above that person is supposed to be liable, not the railroad company.

<{POST_SNAPBACK}>

The problem is that the train might derail also. So, you're protect the conductor and passengers too - and anyone else that might get killed by a derailed train.

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If people wouldn't be complete morons and go around the crossing arms or try and race trains or even, dare I mention, look both ways before crossing the tracks, this wouldn't be a problem. 

<{POST_SNAPBACK}>

Also, don't forget: stop talking on their cellphones for 10 seconds. I don't know if most people are capable of making such a sacrifice.

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If you call this a waste of money, you'd might as well call highway guardrails a waste because you shouldn't be leaving the highway in the first place. It's a fact of life that drivers aren't as careful and educated as they'd ought to be, but that doesn't mean that compensating for driver error through engineering is a waste. Education is a better solution, but how do you propose to re-educate every person out there on the road?

You'd be surprised how many people think a train can come to a halt in roughly the same distance it takes a tractor trailer. Many times when there is an accident at a grade crossing (almost always the driver's fault) the knee jerk reaction for the relatives of the deceased is to "slow the trains down so they can stop in time to avoid an accident." These people just don't understand the physics of stopping a train. One quick glance at the numbers will tell you the truth:

Hummer:

8,000 pounds.

Tractor trailer:

80,000 pounds (= 10 hummers)

Loaded coal train (150 cars @ 280,000lbs/car)

42,000,000 pounds (= 5,250 hummers)

Forty-two million pounds of steel, even at 20mph takes perhaps a quarter mile to stop. And even at 20mph it will crush through you and your hummer like a tiny piece of aluminum foil without so much as batting an eyelash.

On a related note, in the days before crossing lights and gates were commonplace, many states had laws that required you to stop at any railroad grade crossing - whether there was a sign posted or not.

And on an unrelated note, regarding cell phones: I think that it should be illegal to talk on the phone while driving without a hands free device. Make it a $100 fine. I can't count the number of times I've almosed been sent flying off my bike by some dumb piece of crap who was too busy chatting away to see me there.

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And on an unrelated note, regarding cell phones: I think that it should be illegal to talk on the  phone while driving without a hands free device. Make it a $100 fine. I can't count the number of times I've almosed been sent flying off my bike by some dumb piece of crap who was too busy chatting away to see me there.

<{POST_SNAPBACK}>

This is an interested separate topic, so I posted a poll. monsoon - sorry, I intended on posting it to the "off topic" board, but i sort of screwed it up.

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As new developments like the Citadin and the Garrison are built in such close proximity to the ADM plant and a large railroad spur, have any of you heard much about the train noise mitigation? Speaking with the Thornburgs, I am told that they have chosen a special type of soundproofing for the back of their buildings.... don't know what to make of that.

Additionally, I have been told that CCP provided a Memorandum of Understanding (which I am supposed to get a copy of tomorrow) that stated that the crossings will be closed off. This is the msg I received:

**There was a Memorandum of Understanding signed in late January between the North Carolina Department of Transportation (DOT) and the Charlotte DOTstating that the Seaboard St. /11th Street, Johnson St., and 9th Street> crossings will be closed or marked with flashers and gates (9th Street) when the Seaboard Street extension project is completed. Once these crossings are no longer open, the trains will not blow their horns when going through> Fourth Ward. The Seaboard Street extension project is projected to be completed in late Summer '07 and will serve as the primary entrance way to the new NC Music Factory which will consist of restaurants, bars, night clubs, office space, and condos.**

While this sounds VERY promising, I am told after the fact that ADM still owns a "private crossing", which for some reason or another, the state did not pony up the money to close that street-level grade either ... meaning, that the noise will in fact be increased! (making those people who live in the Silos even more miserable than before!)

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The issue is this. When a train comes to a crossing with a road, and that crossing doesn't meet certain standards for signalization, then federal rules require it to blow its horn for safety reasons. There is nothing the city government can do to change this. Either the crossing has to be fixed or the train has to blow its horn. The railroads have absolutely no interest in spending their own money on these kinds of projects.

People who move near these things can't really expect the railroads to change the way they have done things for decades because a pricey condo complex was constructed near one of their tracks.

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The federal government did pass the 'Quiet Zone' rule, which means that if an area has advanced 'sealed crossings' with double arms and various other safety upgrades, then a city can get approved as a quiet zone, and the trains are not required to blow their horn. I don't think it is a matter of being prohibited from blowing their horn, but they are then not required to.

Supposedly, all those upgrades were planned for the crossings around downtown Charlotte, but the rumor is that the 9th Street crossing behind ADM is not right of way owned by the city, as the ADM plant won't let them make the changes. Therefore, that cannot become part of the quiet zone.

I do agree with the sentiment that you just have to accept the train noise (and plenty of other urban noises, too) if you live in an urban environment. However, I also agree with not accepting negative aspects of life as being unfixable, so I agree with the plans to try to mitigate some of that noise. Certainly those 4th Ward projects west of Graham should have lots of noise insulation to help drown out the horn noise, just as projects on the northern part of First Ward, the western part of NoDa, and pretty much all of Optimist Park should.

Honestly, you really do learn to tune it out, even if you are pretty close to it, as long as your bedroom is at least a little bit insulated from the sound. The human brain has a mechanism for it.

Urban problems must be considered to be worth fixing, or else our society will not be able to grow more urban. Old cities, especially in Europe, have solved many of the problems US cities take for granted. I would hope our culture does continue to be one of 'if you don't like it, move to the suburbs', as that is part of what created suburban flight (or whatever term) in the last century.

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The federal government did pass the 'Quiet Zone' rule, which means that if an area has advanced 'sealed crossings' with double arms and various other safety upgrades, then a city can get approved as a quiet zone, and the trains are not required to blow their horn. I don't think it is a matter of being prohibited from blowing their horn, but they are then not required to.

Supposedly, all those upgrades were planned for the crossings around downtown Charlotte, but the rumor is that the 9th Street crossing behind ADM is not right of way owned by the city, as the ADM plant won't let them make the changes. Therefore, that cannot become part of the quiet zone.

I do agree with the sentiment that you just have to accept the train noise (and plenty of other urban noises, too) if you live in an urban environment. However, I also agree with not accepting negative aspects of life as being unfixable, so I agree with the plans to try to mitigate some of that noise. Certainly those 4th Ward projects west of Graham should have lots of noise insulation to help drown out the horn noise, just as projects on the northern part of First Ward, the western part of NoDa, and pretty much all of Optimist Park should.

Honestly, you really do learn to tune it out, even if you are pretty close to it, as long as your bedroom is at least a little bit insulated from the sound. The human brain has a mechanism for it.

Urban problems must be considered to be worth fixing, or else our society will not be able to grow more urban. Old cities, especially in Europe, have solved many of the problems US cities take for granted. I would hope our culture does continue to be one of 'if you don't like it, move to the suburbs', as that is part of what created suburban flight (or whatever term) in the last century.

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I honestly do notmind the trian noise when I do go uptown. It reminds me of Chicago and makes me feel like im at home..... In Chicago all you here at night is police sirens and trains rumbling and blowing their horns, and the sky is always pink at night.....never a solid black.

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I would assume that the train tracks will be fixed up when the Gateway Station is built uptown- although a city/county/state that can't find a way to get highway lights to turn on doesn't inspire too much confidence.

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I must mention that it is a little embarassing to have every single out of town visitor staying at my house mention that they couldn't sleep very well with the trains all night. That is pretty embarassing. I guess even though I'm used to it, it is certainly something I would be very appreciative of if they could just spend the money to upgrade all the crossings to get the 'quiet zone'.

I had heard that ADM 'would not let the city' do it, but if is just a matter of the city having to spend the money, but not technically own the improvements, then that is pretty lame. $30k is wasted all over the place, but improving the quality of life in a radius of the 9th St crossing that includes some pretty valuable land is not so much of a waste.

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I live at Fifth and Poplar, and as long as you are inside, I have never heard a train. Step outside, and that's a different story.

To tell you the truth, though. I actually like hearing the train when I'm outside. Maybe I'm different from most, but I like it. Of course, I'm also the person who would set their "Dream Machine" to city noise to fall asleep instead of the sound of a creek or an ocean.

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I honestly do notmind the trian noise when I do go uptown. It reminds me of Chicago and makes me feel like im at home..... In Chicago all you here at night is police sirens and trains rumbling and blowing their horns, and the sky is always pink at night.....never a solid black.

Agreed, you get used to this sort of thing but until you are actually forced to live in a situation that has these sounds you don't believe that it's possible to get any rest wich such sounds. When I moved to Chicago I was amazed that I could see around my apartment without any lights on, almost like artificial sunlight! :P

It is part of being in the city IMO but of course everyone has their own preferences. When I moved back to Charlotte I had a hard time sleeping at night because it was so quiet.

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You can get used to trains passing. It's a lower rumble and the horns do fade over distance.

It's harder to get used to a switch yard. The CRACCCKKK in the middle of the night as trains are assembled is very sudden and jarring.

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Well, here's a link to the original Memorandum of Understanding the CDOT and the State signed in January, indicating that we would finally FINALLY get federally-mandated quiet zones enacted here and the surrounding Uptown environs .... on my website----

http://www.715northchurch.com/train.pdf

PDF of Memo of Understanding - be patient, it's large!

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A significant portion of the stimulus funds awarded to NC will be to rework the tracks near the ADM flour mill. They will lower the CSX tracks into a trench, allowing the North/Red line tracks, the Norfolk Southern tracks, and other tracks heading toward Gateway Station to stay at grade and cross over the CSX train. That means that the crossings at 9th Street, Johnston Street and Church Street will be closed. Once they are closed, it will dramatically reduce the need for train horns in 4th Ward. Currently, CSX, NS, and Amtrak trains must blow their horns constantly in this area due to the complexity of all the crossings. Once grade separated and sealed, they should qualify for the Quiet Zone regulations.

This is especially good since 4th Ward is the densest populated neighborhood in Charlotte. With a reduction in the train horns, the quality of life should improve for those residents.

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^I was hoping for this over in NoDa. But apparently we didn't get enough money for this? Anyone got any info about money for grade separations over here - or are we on hold till 2019 like CATS is now speculating?

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Do you have a link to the 2019 source? The way I interpreted yesterday's results is that the stimulus funds for this fiscal year went to make the biggest bang. So in one year we got the set of projects that will have the biggest impacts on the speed of the Charlotte to Raleigh trains. Then, every year after this, there will be a better budget to dole out to make other changes. It seems to me that it is more likely that those other changes will happen even sooner since they've made a dramatic one year investment in this line.

Specifically for the 36th Street crossing, I noticed on this presentation from a few months ago, it listed that specific change as being funded by the city of Charlotte. So while the stimulus grants didn't cover that, it still could be moving forward in the near term if the city funds continue for it.

http://www.mumpo.org/PDFs/Rail/CRISP.pdf

Also, I'll be interested in knowing what was covered by the stimulus that NCDOT itself had previously budgeted for state funds. In theory, those funds will now be freed up to go after the next set of important projects. My guess is that the they will prioritize the Sugar Creek and Eastway crossings because those are projects that are prerequisite for the Lynx extension. The stimulus application had the price for the Sugar Creek crossing at $33m so it seems plausible that that amount could be freed up in NCDOT's.

I would love to see specifically what was approved. As the $473m request for the 4th frequecy is less than the $520m granted, so maybe some projects in that 5th frequency were also included.

http://www.bytrain.org/fra/track2/prioritized_capital_plan.pdf

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^The 2019 number was just from the last published article in the "O" about CATS being out of money and maybe pushing the BLE out as far as 2019. Indeed, as I understand it, 36th St. is a CATS project and Sugar Creek is a NCRR project. I had asked a few questions once of a CATS official about whether the construction of a grade separation at Sugar Creek would make the 36th St. separation imminent (could one happen but not the other)? The answer was that one depended on the other - and if a funding source materialized for one, funding would have to be found for the other... but right now... I don't see any funding for either.

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Yeah the 2019 was sort of independent of all this, but I follow you now.

We'll see. As is sort of being discussed elsewhere, the stimulus did include some $50m in funding beyond just the 4th frequency list of projects. Plus, don't forget there is also the FY2010 regular budget for rail improvements. This announcement was just from the stimulus budget. So it is probable that they'll add other funding this year after getting a sizable portion funded by the stimulus. Plus, as I mentioned, that is just the federal part. Once that money starts getting spent, you'll likely see NCDOT and the city stepping up to fund their work as well. Either way, things are in motion for major progress. This is an immediate grant, not even just an agreement that they'll give us the money over 5 years like we're used to it. It is awesome news, as they believe NC can have something to show for the money quickly.

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