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All quiet on the western front in Galt?

City seeks to silence trains on their trips through downtown

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Posted: Tuesday, December 6, 2011 12:00 am | Updated: 10:40 am, Wed Jan 30, 2013.

Officials in Galt are planning to create a quiet zone through downtown where trains won't blow their horns.

To move forward, the City Council will be asked to approve spending up to $150,000 tonight to make upgrades to the seven Union Pacific railroad crossings in and around Galt.

Train horn noise has been a quality of life issue for many years with numerous residents and businesses complaining about it, according to City Manager Jason Behrmann, who estimates between 20 and 30 trains traverse the downtown tracks daily.

"With our efforts to revitalize old town, which sits directly adjacent to the tracks, our interest in creating a quiet zone has grown over the past year," he said.

Less noise, officials hope, will help draw more business downtown. Upscale restaurant Brewster's opened in the summer, while Galt Place is taking applications for affordable senior housing. There will also be commercial space.

Currently, engineers blow their horns as they approach intersections to ensure that both pedestrians and motorists are aware of an oncoming train. But supplemental safety measures such as installing raised medians or additional crossing gates could make the horn-blasting unnecessary.

The quiet zone guidelines are set by the federal government and based on a formula that takes into account the number of trains, street traffic including cars, pedestrians and bicycles, and accident rates.

Although railroad operators are required to comply with quiet zones, engineers are given leeway to blow their whistle at a person or animal at the tracks within the designated quiet zone.

The majority of the trains traveling through Galt are hauling freight, although four Amtrak passenger trains en route between Sacramento and Lodi travel through downtown daily.

Elk Grove established its first quiet zone in 2008 and has just wrapped up studying an area for a third quiet zone. It is among only 18 cities in California that have them.

Galt interim Public Works Director Richard Prima, who headed up Lodi's public works department for more than two decades, said Lodi took a look at creating quiet zones but only qualified for restricted horns, which would have only redirected the noise down cross streets.

These horns are installed on poles at crossing gates, and sound automatically when a train approaches.

Other measures proved too expensive, according to Lodi Public Works Director Wally Sandelin.

"Our cost numbers were in the range of $2 million," he said in an email.

Additionally, there have also been far fewer accidents along Galt tracks than in Lodi. Since 1975, there has been only one fatality involving a train at any of the seven crossings Galt studied, according to the Federal Railroad Association.

In 2004, a pedestrian walking at about 10 p.m. was hit and killed by 40-car freight train.

Contact reporter Jennifer Bonnett at jenniferb@lodinews.com.

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  • Frederick Goethel posted at 6:22 pm on Tue, Dec 6, 2011.

    Frederick Goethel Posts: 50

    If they follow he staff report, which recommends that Spring St and Twin Cities be excluded, they are wasting money. In the Northeast area, the majority of noise people are complainig about originate from those two crossings. If they do not include them, the noise, and hence the complaints will continue. I live almost 2 miles (as the crow flies) from the Twin Cities crossing and I can hear them clearly in my bedroom at night (through a closed window. I don't mid trains and the horns, but many of the complainers live in the area I do.

  • Tom Malson posted at 11:01 am on Tue, Dec 6, 2011.

    Tom Malson Posts: 8

    When I was on City Council & also on the League Transportation Committee, in 2005 I made a motion to study quite zones for Galt. Deciding vote against it at the time was Barbra Payne, who said that she felt that the train noise was “quaint”. Now Seven YEARS later . . . . . .



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