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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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Smitty Jones October 11, 2012 at 07:58 PM
I'm guessing the answer to this obviously cynical question would be "yes", but the better question would be to ask if they could afford to bear the brunt of it on their own? Or to ask yourself how you would feel if the roles were reversed.
D.Ren October 11, 2012 at 09:42 PM
Jim, I was never disagreeing with your idea, crossing arms does make more sense and if you can get the borough to back you and accomplish your goal, good for you, Yes your family deserves uninterrupted sleep as a tax paying citizen. My point is that if I were to knowingly move next to a train track that I am going to expect noise at all hours of the day and night, I personally would hate to live next to a train track. Lets say I were to move right next door to the fire station in Baldwin and then go to the borough to ban the whistle all together, wouldn't you ask me the same question "Why would you move there and then complain fully knowing where you moving next to?"
JimB October 11, 2012 at 10:12 PM
D. Ren, thanks for your support. This situation, at first glance, does beg the more than obvious question of "why did we move here in the first place if we didn't want the train noise?" Well, if people would read the article more carefully, they would see that the sixth paragraph states: "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." The very first question we asked when we first saw the house (looking to buy) was about the train activity. We were told how light and infrequent the traffic and resulting horn-blowing was and that this is the way it had been for a long time. As the article mentions, it was only a few times a week, mostly on a weekend that we would hear it. We bought the house and experienced the very same thing for ourselves. The article also mentions that we have been here now for 5 1/2 years. I'm only taking issue with it now because the traffic has significantly increased in the past year and is completely disrupting what we, as a neighborhood, not just ourselves, have come to know. We moved next to a track with light, infrequent traffic. That is not the case anymore; much difficulty to those who try to sell their home in an effort to move if that is what they decide to do. I'm trying to make the situation better for everyone, regardless if they want to stay or eventually move desipite the reason.
JimB October 12, 2012 at 01:14 AM
How is it possible, that it is 9:07 pm, and the train just came by and did NOT sound its horn? It simply slowed down and proceeded through the intersection. If one can do it, why can't they all? And, this is not the first time an engineer has been that courteous......it makes me curious if they are in violation by doing so.
NE12Ukid October 12, 2012 at 04:17 AM
Reversed? You mean the rest of us pay for making THEIR neighborhood quieter? Nah, I did not choose to live near tracks, but I do hear trains, and it doesn't bother me enough to want to pay more in taxes to quiet them. As I stated originally, it makes me smile.
NE12Ukid October 12, 2012 at 04:19 AM
Let's also note that the train noise severly cripples the marketability of our area to potential residents. >>> Do you have any evidence showing this? I 'm thinking of the riverfront areas and how popular and valuable they are, despite having trains running there.
NE12Ukid October 12, 2012 at 04:22 AM
The school taxes comment was clearly an aside, and the point was that we all pay enough taxes as it is. Schools/education benefit the entire community/country. Making one neighborhood quieter benefits only those neighbors. Not really comparable, and I was not comparing the two and stated that it's another subject.
NE12Ukid October 12, 2012 at 04:26 AM
True, JimB, I was just posing the question as to if it would even be a possiblitiy, and if so, would this alter the position of the neighbors in that area.
JimB October 12, 2012 at 12:32 PM
NE12Ukid, marketability is not at all the same thing as property value. There are a lot of "given and take" variables when looking at the marketability of properties; mostly having to do with the appeal of an area, not necessarily its assessed value. We do not live on a main throughway, we live in a neighborhood on a dead-end street. This does not make our property more valuable, but it does make it more marketable to those looking for that type of living. Round-the-clock horn blowing 60 feet from our backdoor as it has become (again, not how it used to be) is a huge detriment to the marketability of our immediate area, though it does not at all decrease our property value. Even if we wanted to move away from the tracks due to this increase in noise polution, it would be all the more difficult to sell our home; when someone asks about the train noise at the end of our property (as was our first question when first looking at it for purchase), we can no longer say "light and scattered". We would have to say, "its a new and crippling issue for a once peaceful life and the very reason we are moving." My guess is that they pass over our house and move on to the next option. So where does that leave us? To those that say, "If you don't like it, Move!", it is easy to sit behind a keyboard and wax such fatuity to perfect strangers, but the reality of the idea is far easier said than done given what the situation has now become by no fault of our own.
Rumple Stiltskin October 15, 2012 at 08:42 PM
Does this idiot expect a Corvette if he buys a Chevette? Does he expect it to be a beautiful sunny day EVERY day where he bought his house, just because it was a beautiful sunny day when he bought the house? Well.....if you don't like the choo-choo, pal - you shouldn't have bought the house. Maybe you should have bought a house kind of maybe far away from train tracks if you don't like the nose??? Or did the realtors give you in writing that there would only be like 2 or 3 trains a week...? If so go complain to them. t
bd October 15, 2012 at 11:37 PM
JimB - Why don't you contact the railroad yourself? Tell them your problem and ask them for a possible solution. Why bother local government with this until you find out for yourself if the railroad company can work with you? you have done little other than check the web to see what other communities have done at a big cost to the local communities involved. Anybody could have done that much. Make some calls yourself. If my kids were making the fuss that you claim, I sure would not be expecting local politicians to move quickly to solve my problem. Especially if more than one government is involved.
NE12Ukid October 15, 2012 at 11:54 PM
So Jim, you are saying you have no idea how much this improvement to your home would cost the rest of us, right?
NE12Ukid October 16, 2012 at 12:06 AM
...and we still have no evidence as to the "crippling" of the marketability, correct? Just opinion, right?
Margaret French October 16, 2012 at 04:21 AM
If you don't want to hear a train, move. Someone stated it is rude to tell him to move... no it isn't. If he doesn't want to hear it then move and next time don't buy a house near train tracks. Also, if you don't want your house to flood don't buy one near a creek or river. Btw, some people actually like trains and wouldn't mind living there so I don't think that would stop it from selling. I just sold a house with train tracks closer than the ones are to his. The buyer knew and didn't care. High taxes is what would keep it from selling, railroad tracks or not... not to mention how the school district has gone downhill.
Jeffery Ward October 16, 2012 at 07:03 AM
i am to assume then, that gov't and the railroad should spare no expense to appease a small minority of people who complain? if the railroad has been there longer than anybody can remember, with no complaints until now, is the railroad the problem? for what it's worth, i live next to a far busier line than yours. most people learn to sleep through the trains.
cc October 16, 2012 at 11:18 AM
Nicole I agree. I can hear the trains from my home during the day and they mostly they blow their whistles because people try to beat the train when the red lights are flashing because they don't want to wait for the train to pass. Do I blame the engineers on the train for blowing whistles, NO, but I do blame the people that are to much in a rush to wait. I have had people fly around me when the lights were flashing but the train didn't get there yet. One day someone is going to get hit by the train especially if they aren't allowed to blow their horns.
cc October 16, 2012 at 11:22 AM
More train traffic isn't a sign that the economy is growing. More companies are switching to shipping by trains because it is much cheaper than shipping over the road, as gas and diesel keep on going up (thanks to obama) and companies are trying to move products the cheapest way so that they don't have to increase the price of products.
cc October 16, 2012 at 11:34 AM
I agree there, people leave their dogs out all night chained to dog houses and they bark all night. Call the police and they bring the dog in for the night but the next night they are back barking all night. We keep a radio on in the bathroom so we don't have to listen to our neighbors with barking dogs.
JimB October 16, 2012 at 06:27 PM
NE12Ukid, to answer your latest comments, one of which was already answered in a comment above by "BD", a four-arm system would cost between 300K-500K, we would fall on the lesser side as the signal lights are already installed there. This would be an upgrade to the current system and not a fully new installation. A safe, yet rough estimate would say approx. 150K-200K per burough for the install, with a calculated $0.11/per resident (of both Baldwin and Whitehall) in maintenance fees. That's 11 cents, not dollars mind you, as already answered by "Smitty Jones" in a past comment as well. To answer your second and equally snidely-toned question: This 2001 study http://fastracks01.thenewpush.com/media/uploads/gl/The_effect_of_Rail_Transit_on_Property_Values_Summary_of_Studies1.pdf shows suggests as much as a 20% decrease in property values for homes that are within 400 feet of a train right-of-way (such as McAnulty and Jean). This particular article does not address your exact question, but shows that research has indeed been carried out and published for studies in other cities. The more direct answer to your question can be found here in a 2012 publication: http://daily.sightline.org/2012/06/06/freight-rail-and-property-values/ which specifically studies how an increase in "rail density" such as what we are experiencing, can negatively impact home values in the immediate area as much as - 7%. So yes, this is a real thing, not just opinion.
JimB October 16, 2012 at 06:42 PM
You seem to be missing the point that the train traffic was never a problem until this past year. Who cares if the tracks have been there for a thousand years or 2 years. If the significantly increased traffic has become a problem with round-the-clock horns, there-in lies the problem. It has nothing to do with how long the tracks have been there. I grew up three blocks away from a railway...never bothered me growing up. I enjoyed the traffic on this trck, too, when we bought the home as well as it was something I am MORE than used to and actually enjoy...but what we are experiencing in the here and now is an entirely different monster. Again, I've been here over half a decade, never opened my mouth about it until now, because there was no reason until now. People are acting like we moved in yesterday and decided we didn't like the train noise, which yes, would be an absurd gripe, but that is not the case...and again, I'm not the only one here who wants this to happen...
Margaret French October 16, 2012 at 11:54 PM
JimB- the tracks were there when the house was bought. A person has to think ahead of whether or not it might become a problem someday. If they think it could and don't want to hear trains then they should not of bought the house. Time passes, things change... a person just has to try to think ahead.
Smitty Jones October 17, 2012 at 05:24 PM
Many people here keep talking about how Mr. Bowman should just move, as if he's the only one affected. Look at google maps: within just 1/4 mile (1320 feet) of the intersection where the railroad crosses over McAnulty Road near Jean, I count at least 61 houses who have the train tracks directly abutting their back (or side) yards (39-41 to the east of the intersection: 25 on Jean, 8 on Jewel, 4 on Felix, 2-4 on Audbert; and more than 22 to the west: 1 on McAnulty, 1 on Curry, 8 on Willow, and ~12 households in the townhomes on Rosewood Ct. This isn't counting the houses who are right across the street or right next to those houses. I don't know where the train starts blowing it's horn in advance of the intersection, but I'm assuming it's a minimum of 1/4 mile based on websites about train laws. If it's 1/2 mile in each direction, you can double those numbers. Don't think it's reasonable for people to keep talking like this is just one man's problem. It IS a community problem. Would still like to find out though if there's any truth to what D.Ren said on Oct. 11 about the extra train traffic being only temporary until the bridge at Curry Hollow gets fixed, and if so, what time-frames. And if necessary, would also still like to see ALL options for creating a Quiet Zone explored if they might be less expensive and equally as safe as the "crossing arm" solution, like possibly blocking off McAnulty at the railroad crossing and diverting that traffic to Curry.
Watcher October 31, 2012 at 02:28 AM
I dont hear 61 households complaining, just one.
cc October 31, 2012 at 07:38 PM
ML- If you live in the Baldwin/Whitehall all your life then you most certainly paid for your child education at the school. Then again your the one that wanted a rebate because you don't have students in the school but we all had to pay for when your children were in school.
cc October 31, 2012 at 08:18 PM
JimB because they are seeing people flying over the train tracks to beat the train and have to sound the horns when that happens. People need to stop when they see the flashing red lights but don't. Don't blame the train engineers or the borough, blame the people that are in too much of a rush to get no where.
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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