A Lot of Noise Over Silence at Train Crossings

By: Natalie Swaby
By: Natalie Swaby

It is what you don't hear at Madison train crossings that has the Commissioner of Railroads concerned.

"Madison felt that they wanted to have a quiet system of transportation, and that has merit. However, you do not do it at the expense of safety," says Commissioner Rodney Kreunen.

When you open up the city's ordinance book it says it in black and white, 'Trains can't blow their whistle at street crossings.' The 2001 law came about after lots of complaints over the noise.

For Kreunen it comes down to quality of life versus safety.

"The safety has to override. When you bought a home right next to a railroad track or next to an airport or next to a highway there are noises," he says.

Kreunen thinks train whistles are especially needed at railroad crossings where a sign is all the warning you get, but Madison's Mayor disagrees, and he is taking his argument to Washington DC.

"There is no evidence that the number of accidents or close calls at intersections has increased since the whistle ban went into effect," explains Mayor Dave Cieslewicz.

But anticipated federal laws might mean choosing between the whistle or upgrading intersections so they have gates and lights.

"It would cost the city $10 million, and that is just far too expensive," says the Mayor.

But he says the city can't afford not to.

"If Madison doesn't comply I can just picture some accident, and some sharp attorney suing the city and us as taxpayers. We're going to have to pay," warns Kreunen.

The Mayor notes, "I do think the whistle ban is an important part of making down town a more desirable place to live."

Mayor Cieslewicz will head to Washington D.C. on Monday. He will lobby for a five year grace period to buy Madison some time before making changes to railroad crossings.

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