After high-level meetings with officials, the city of Washington is one step closer to the sound of silence.
On Monday, Washington Director of Public Services John Nilges told the Washington Area Highway and Transportation Committee the whistles on the trains will no longer be sounded as they pass by the depot, but it will take a few more months.
“The whistles are part of the Positive Train Control,” Nilges said. “They activate automatically when the trains go through a crossing. Our depot is considered a crossing.”
He explained the concrete poured between the tracks at the depot to allow passengers to walk easily to trains triggers the onboard sensors on the locomotives, which causes the whistles to sound.
The piece of concrete between the two rails where passengers get off trains is not part of the original quiet zone established in about 2006. That piece of concrete is owned by the city.
Mainline freight trains continue to have Positive Train Control (PTC) mechanisms installed due to a federal mandate made under the George W. Bush administration in September 2008.
If the human component does not blow the whistle or slow down the train around the corner, the computer mechanism will sound the whistle as a backup to the safety system.
“We are in a 60-day notice of intent,” Nilges said. “Once the public comment period ends, it will take six to eight weeks to make the adjustments on the locomotives.”
Nilges added the change will impact about 6,000 Amtrak and freight locomotives, which may travel through Washington at any given time.
The 60-day period allows for the rail operators and other government agencies to comment. Those include the Federal Rail Administration, Union Pacific Railroad, MoDOT, Amtrak and the Washington Police Department.
Because the whistles will soon be silenced at the depot, additional signage will be required in that area, as well as new latches on the fence gates.
According to Nilges, there still is a quiet zone in effect from the Lafayette Street railroad crossing to Kingsland Drive, near the city’s wastewater treatment plant.
In 2006, the city petitioned to establish the quiet zone.