Forum: Train horns can save lives
December 14, 2012 10:34PM
Updated: January 17, 2013 6:42AM
There are several Southland communities seeking to establish railroad “quiet zones” by banning train horns at railroad crossings where required safety improvements have been made. This seems to defy common sense and logic because of the more frequent collisions between trains and vehicles and pedestrians in the Chicago area.
Train horns are needed more than ever because of the increasing number of distractions that people face, such as cellphones, CD players, texting, etc. There are alarming federal statistics that show as much as a 195 percent increase in train collisions at more than 2,000 crossings nationwide where quiet zones were established. Illinois was among five states that showed an 84 percent increase of collisions in such zones.
I conducted a personal study at two crossings in downtown Tinley Park, 66th Court and Oak Park Avenue, that are a block apart. There are 51 Metra trains daily (much less on weekends) and a few freight trains per day through those crossings.
The train horns sounded for an average of 20 seconds per train, amounting to about 18 minutes of horns each day. Do we really want to silence a necessary warning to people to gain a mere 20 minutes of quiet in a 24-hour day? That’s a small payment for the amount of safety train horns provide.
Would we want to ban the noise of sirens and horn blasts of fire, police and emergency vehicles on their mission to save lives? Certainly not. Train horns are sounded for the same reason. Noise doesn’t kill people, but train collisions do. To prohibit train horns is foolish at best.
If you are concerned about the safety of “no train horn” crossings, take your concerns to your town officials. You may save a life.
Questions CMAP plan
The Chicago Metropolitan Agency for Planning (CMAP) proposes that the Illinois Department of Transportation (IDOT) and the Illinois Toll Highway Authority institute congestion pricing for motorists.
The Legislature created CMAP in 2005 as a quasi-governmental agency that oversees regional planning in seven counties in the Chicago area. Our Legislature is remiss in supporting this agency. IDOT roadways are subsidized by our tax dollars as freeways and should remain that way.
The tollway authority is a self-perpetuating bureaucracy that oversees 286 miles of highways that, under the law creating it, should’ve reverted to freeways 20 years ago. The tollway system is part of the interstate highway system, which is financed by the motor fuel tax and is a freeway for all other counties in Illinois.
CMAP fails to realize that the proposed express lanes on Interstate 90, as suggested by the congestion pricing idea, will terminate and merge into the Kennedy Expressway at the junction of Interstate 294 and the Interstate 190 from O’Hare International Airport. About 12 traffic lanes will flow into the three lanes of the Kennedy.
There is now traffic congestion at this location, and the proposed express lanes will create the mother of all congestion.