Wayside horns could reduce train whistles by this summer

by Martha Quetsch
Elburn must wait a few more months for the wayside horns that, for the most part, will rid the village of train whistles.

The horns will be installed at both the First Street and the Main Street railroad crossings in Elburn, a project the Illinois Commerce Commission (ICC) approved last December after a five-month review.

Now, the ICC must approve of the project construction contract between the village and Union Pacific Railroad (UP) before installation can begin.

ICC approval likely will take 60 to 90 days from when the Village Board approves the UP contract, which could be as soon as March 16, Village Administrator David Morrison said.

“Both (contracts) could be approved next week (Monday’s Village Board meeting), if insurance issues are cleared up,” Morrison said.

Under the contract with UP, the village will be required to carry railroad liability insurance for the wayside horn system, at a cost village staff is determining.

Trustee Craig Swan wants the Village Board to approve the UP contract as soon as possible.

“It (the wayside horn project) still remains a top priority for people in town,” Swan said.

The UP agreement is necessary because the railroad owns the property on which the village will install the horns. Under the agreement, the village will pay UP $2,500 for a real estate license and a $54,524 deposit for railroad work related to the wayside horn project. The village also will have to pay UP for the railroad company’s flagger services during the project.

For wayside horn installation and materials, the village will pay the company, Railroad Controls Limited, $93,640 for the Main Street crossing wayside horn, and $101,637 for the First Street crossing horn.

The total cost of the wayside horn project for both crossings, including engineering and consultant fees, equipment and installation, is approximately $300,000, less than other options village officials proposed in the past to meet federal safety requirements for a quiet zone.

The wayside horns will direct the horn sound only toward the immediate area of pedestrian and vehicular traffic near the crossings. Trains still will blow their whistles if the wayside horn lights are not functioning, or if the locomotive engineer sees a safety hazard.

Last April, village trustees agreed to pursue the least costly method to silence train whistles in the village in compliance with federal safety regulations. They decided installing wayside horns at the First Street and Main Street rail crossings were the solution.

The total estimated cost for a previous proposal to install a center barrier of pylons at the First Street crossing—was $400,000, village engineers said.