Chippewa Falls residents want an end to early morning wake ups - WQOW TV: Eau Claire, WI NEWS18 News, Weather, and Sports

Some Chippewa Falls residents tired of early-morning train whistles

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Chippewa Falls (WQOW) - The train of thought in one Chippewa Falls neighborhood is simple: residents want an end to the early morning wake up call on the tracks. People who live near the crossing on Pumphouse Road say the train whistles are waking them up in the middle of the night.

Train traffic has picked up because of the demand for frac sand, and many trains run at night, in part to reduce the impact on traffic at crossings during the day.   The city of Chippewa Falls is now looking into creating a quiet zone.

Roger Kressin, the President of The Meadows Homeowner's Association, says, "Some of them blow their whistle a lot different, and more than others."

It may be a fine rail line, between public safety, and the public's sanity. Kressin says, "One of the condo members said, if I worked and lived as close to the railroad track as I do, I don't know how I could get enough sleep." 

Kressin says train traffic at night has changed in the five years he's lived in the neighborhood, on the east side of Chippewa Falls. He says, "When most of the people moved here, there was maybe one train a day going through here, maybe three or four a week, nothing like it is now."

The Mayor of Chippewa Falls, Greg Hoffman says, "We have to understand that this rail line, it has considerably increased in traffic, with the addition of the frac sand industry." 

Complaints from neighbors living next to the tracks convinced Kressin to ask the city to look into adding a quiet zone. It's not as simple as asking the train operators not to blow their horns, they're required to blow them for safety purposes.

Adding a quiet zone could cost up to $350,000. Kressin says, "I'm hoping that maybe the sand plants would help kick in some money for the quiet zone, they're the ones that are benefiting from it and they're the ones that are making the noise."

Mayor Hoffman thinks the cost should be spread around. He says, "If we're going to do this, we really need to talk to everyone who utilizes the trains. It's not a decision that we can make as a city and just say we're going to do it."

Cross arms would be needed in a quiet zone, but until the city completes a study, it's unsure what else would be required.

The city would have to apply with the railroad commission which would decide if a quiet zone is a good fit, car and rail traffic are factors in the decision. 

Even if the city does put in a quiet zone, the railroad could ultimately decide the road is too busy and have it removed. "I think the federal government would prefer to have the horns blown because of the safety."

The next step is for the city to hold a public hearing.  That could be this March. Mayor Hoffman also says he's in the process of reaching out to companies that use the rail line, to see if they would consider different hours of operation. 

A study would determine what would be needed in a quiet zone.  If the city moves forward with that, it would cost about $10,000.  

Added safety features would be needed, but there hasn't been a breakdown of the cost yet.  We could learn more at the public hearing in March.

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