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For some Longmont residents, quiet zones can’t come fast enough

The city and council members continue to field noise complaints about trains.
BNSF 1st & Main (2 of 2)
The train depot at First Avenue and Main Street.

Noise from cargo trains has been a problem for years in Longmont, but the issue has caused at least one resident near Main Street and First Avenue to move out of their apartment.

The complaints have come from one building in particular — 120 Main Street, which a former resident, who wished to remain anonymous, described in a letter to the Leader as a “torturous” place to live. 

“The city is taking the situation quite seriously, because it’s a case that we don’t have laws on the books to really address the problem — it was a factory before,” said Council Member Marcia Martin, the Ward representative for the First Avenue and Main Street area.

The council member is working with the city’s director of engineering, police chief and other local officials to solve the problem, but they need help from BNSF Railway to move forward with implementing quiet zones, Martin said. The railway company has agreed to three of the “quiet zone” structural improvements in the area this year, and three next year.

“It’s a problem that is going to go away, but not going to go away fast enough to make somebody who is renting there very happy,” Martin said. “Making one crossing quiet doesn’t help because the nearest next crossing is too close — you can still hear the train. … so you need about three crossings in each direction to make a particular point in the track quiet.”

The other issue residents near Main Street and First Avenue face is a vibration from trains idling — a problem that may not be so easy to solve, the council member explained.

“It’s the idling of the train engines that seems to be the more severe problem — and it’s probably limited to that one building, and it’s probably structural.”

The building foundations could be rattled by contact with the train track foundations, she said. The city does not have the kind of engineering resources to really investigate this, nor statutory justification for doing so. The city has appealed to the EPA for guidance on the matter.
The Leader reached out to the building manager of 120 Main Street for comment, but did not immediately hear back. 

The city has planned more than a dozen quiet zones in a multi-million dollar project to reduce noise pollution made by trains. Longmont was awarded a grant in 2020 from the U.S. Department of Transportation Federal Railroad Administration to implement the quiet zones, with the city providing matching funds. The zones can’t be implemented until safety improvements are made. Projects such as the installation of new gate arms at the Ninth Avenue intersection began late last year.

It’s unclear how the vibrations caused by the trains near First Avenue and Main Street can be solved — the Leader reached out to BNSF for comment, but did not receive a response.

Amber Fisher

About the Author: Amber Fisher

I'm thrilled to be an assistant editor with the Longmont Leader after spending the past decade reporting for news outlets across North America. When I'm not writing, you can find me snowboarding, reading fiction and running (poorly).
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