Baldwin Man Wants Help Controlling Local Train Noise

Will (should) local borough councils support his efforts?

In what he's calling a "quality of life" issue, Baldwin Borough resident Jim Bowman of Jean Drive has asked the Baldwin Council to support the institution of a "quiet zone" in the area immediately surrounding the Jean-McAnulty Road intersection.

Trouble is ... the railroad nearest Bowman's home may not be in Baldwin Borough and may be out of the Baldwin Council's full jurisdiction.

As Bowman learned at a Baldwin Council meeting on Tuesday night, the loud train horns that he and his neighbors keep hearing are coming from a railroad that runs horizontally along the southern border of Whitehall Borough.

In fact, as Baldwin Borough engineer Larry Souleret said while looking at a map on Tuesday, the railroad literally splits the border of Whitehall and south Baldwin, meaning that any quiet zone would have to include cooperation from the Whitehall Council, as well.

Bowman, who said that his neighbors and his family, including two young boys, are often woken up by train horns at 1, 3 and even 4 a.m., would like for trains using that railroad to limit their horns at certain hours of the night.

Bowman said, when he bought his home on Jean in May 2007, "The traffic on this railroad was extremely light. There were maybe two or three trains a week. It wasn't an issue five-and-a-half years ago.

"Now, since that time, the traffic on this railroad has increased considerably, and it's not at all family-friendly."

Baldwin Mayor Alexander R. Bennett Jr. encouraged Baldwin's council members to work with Whitehall officials to establish a quiet zone near the McAnulty-Jean intersection.

Baldwin Councilman John Ferris said that Whitehall residents on nearby Jewel Drive are almost certainly being affected by the train noise, as well.

If the Baldwin and Whitehall councils were to act on limiting horn noise, however, that would limit the amount of warning that motorists and pedestrians have of oncoming trains. And where the railroad crosses McAnulty just before Jean, there are no arms coming from the tracks to stop traffic.

The implementation of a quiet zone would require the installation of those arms, and as Baldwin Councilman Michael Stelmasczyk pointed out, the borough—or in this case, boroughs—would be responsible for paying for it all.

Stelmasczyk also said that, since horn noise has shown to help to prevent accidents, accidents occurring in quiet zones become borough responsibility rather than rail company responsibility.

Ferris called that "the liability factor."

"I don't think it's an easy decision," Stelmasczyk said. "I think all of that has to be taken into account."

Can you hear noise coming from this railroad? Has it disturbed you, as well? Tell us in the comments section below.

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Eric December 02, 2012 at 05:26 AM
I know it might sound dreadful that if someone is paying a lot of money to live in a place, then he should be happy there, but it kinda makes sense. I don't see why anyone should oppose making a quiet zone, or at least taking another look at train horn rules. Train horn rules are set consistently by the Federal Railroad Administration, true, but that also leads to a problem - very few things can be "one-size-fits-all" solutions in a giant country with 300+ million people. This one horn rule has to work during peak hour in a busy city as well as in the middle of the night in rural Western Pennsylvania. I can totally understand the need to be heard in a busy city (let's say Chicago, which has the most trains out of any city), but if you're passing through a small town where there really won't be anybody out past 1a, is a 90-second déluge of cacophony absolutely necessary? There have been times where trains come through every couple minutes, and sound their horn the entire time - it leads to hours of this miserable noise! There seems to be this fatalist mentality amongst most of you that says "this is the way things are, and have been- and if you don't like it, well then you can just get out!"- that there's no way to actually change the status quo to be mutually beneficial to either party.
Eric December 02, 2012 at 05:27 AM
Also - people will always find ways to get around safety measures; to make overarching policies to cater to the dumbest person only asks for people to lower the bar of acceptable behavior. Something else to note - in 2011, there were 10 fatalities due to highway-rail grade crossing collisions in *all of Pennsylvania*, with an additional 10 non-fatal casualties, 21 trespasser deaths, and seven trespasser non-fatal casualties. So let's do the math, 48 people die or get hurt in PA, a state with 12.74 million people, and we need to have a rule where EVERY train has to honk at EVERY intersection EVERYWHERE ALL THE TIME so a super-small fraction of the population don't get hurt. Yes, deaths are tragic, but people do die for various reasons. I'd say so few deaths are a good thing. I live in Squirrel Hill - and am forever plagued (read: cursed) with the noise from neighboring Homestead. Trains frequent the few at-grade crossings all throughout the day and night, and their fire station has an Eisenhower-era fire siren ("duck and cover!") that alerts any time anything goes slightly amiss. This small town generates more noise than most of Pittsburgh proper, and it's quite ridiculous. There must be a means to relegate this noise whilst maintaining proper safety, utilising modern technology. Since they're not in the City, it'll be even tougher to get their Council to agree to something like this, unless I can start a protest in their borough.
Eric December 02, 2012 at 05:30 AM
After speaking with my city councilman, he said that there's not much he can do, since the noise doesn't come from the city; Homestead people say I can't really ask for anything since I don't live there - and apparently nobody has ever complained about the noise? Also, who the hell builds a shopping center right next to a busy train crossing? Five minutes of 100dB noise can permanently damage your hearing.
Eric December 02, 2012 at 05:48 AM
And where the hell else can you live in Pittsburgh without hearing any trains? There are numerous lines that run all throughout the city - I've heard them everywhere. It also costs thousands of dollars to move - it's not like you can just pack up and go somewhere else if you've realised a bit too late what you've done.
Patricia Kozlowski January 07, 2013 at 11:46 PM
I can honestly say that this past fall the trains have been running in the middle of the night, before that, they only ran morning, afternoon, evening, been here 45 years on Jean Drive. They never ran at 2:00am before. In fact, I never noticed them until this fall. Would wake me up in the middle of the night. Just sayin. There has been a change in the times they run now that is the problem.


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