Union Pacific … is it extortion?
I was certainly interested in the recent Sky-Hi news article concerning the town council’s latest attempt to prevent Union Pacific from blaring the horns as their locomotives pass through Winter Park, especially since we literally live within a stone’s throw of the Vasquez Creek crossing. However, something doesn’t add up, and it seems to me that requiring the town to pay in excess of $450,000 up front plus $20,000 in yearly maintenance fees for crossing upgrades borders on extortion … pay up or we will continue to make your lives miserable.
My wife and I also have an apartment across the street from a major heavy-rail commuter line through a densely populated corridor just north of Chicago. The trains and track are maintained by Union Pacific under the regulations of the Federal Railroad Administration. Guess what No horns, even though the locomotives blast through the towns at 70 mph.
Furthermore, there are at-grade crossings every block without the four quadrant gates or the medians that Union Pacific demands we install. You can visualize the scene by imagining passenger trains rumbling down Colfax Avenue in Denver at 70 mph, rather than coal trains struggling to maintain a walking pace as they wind their way through Winter Park in the middle of the night.
Being curious about the apparent discrepancy in regulations, I checked out the little white whistle boards that are posted along the tracks to signal engineers to sound the horns in advance of an at-grade crossing. In the Chicago suburbs they have a “QZ” below the “W,” which I assume stands for Quiet Zone. If our crossings are so dangerous in Winter Park, why doesn’t Union Pacific consider similar crossings more dangerous in Chicago? I think that we deserve an answer before paying for the upgrades. Or, perhaps, instead of paying the extortionists, the town should consider passing a train noise ordinance first and then stopping any offending trains at the Moffat tunnel and not letting the engineer proceed until he pays a $20,000 fine.
Winter Park, Colorado
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