Shhhhh! Quiet zone in Hamburg ahead - The Buffalo News

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Shhhhh! Quiet zone in Hamburg ahead

Gayle Ciraolo, of Hamburg, is looking forward to her telephone ringing and not having to run into the bathroom and close the door before she can hear the conversation.

Members of Bible Fellowship Church on Rogers Road can’t wait to hold concerts and services outdoors this summer.

Blaring train horns that blast day and night have made enjoying outdoor activities – and some indoor ones like watching television and ordinary conversation – difficult to nearly impossible for those living near train crossings.

All that is to change at 12:01 a.m. next Tuesday, when 24-hour “quiet zones” on Cloverbank and Rogers roads are established, and Hamburg becomes the fourth community in New York State to have them.

The quiet zone allows a train approaching an at-grade crossing to refrain from blowing its horn. The Federal Railroad Administration allows the zones when there are measures enacted to ensure the safety of motorists.

In Hamburg’s case, that comes down to the installation of narrow yellow medians or traffic separator systems, which have reflective “channelization” devices. They prevent vehicles from driving around a gate that is lowered for a train to cross. The gate still will ding when it comes down.

It’s been a 12-year battle in Hamburg to quiet the horns, and residents won’t quite believe it – until they don’t hear them.

Ciraolo started writing letters in 2002, she said. The town estimates 20,000 residents live within the sound of the horns.

“I can’t explain what we have gone through for so many years, especially summertimes with this ungodly noise,” she said.

She said she and her husband, Pete, knew that their Rogers Road home was next to train tracks when they moved in 40 years ago.

“When we moved here, there were only 20 trains a day,” she said. “Now they say there’s about 80, 90 trains a day.”

And each train is required to blow two long blasts, followed by one short and one long blast, repeating the pattern until the lead locomotive is in the crossing. There is no regulation on the length of each blast, and residents said the whistles seem to have become longer and louder recently.

Bible Fellowship Church, located next to the tracks on Rogers Road, tapes its Sunday morning services.

“We have train whistles on all of them,” said the Rev. William Flick, pastor of the church.

He said there are easily 10 whistles blown throughout each hour-and-a-half-long service.

“I just speak louder,” he said. “Every once in while I’ll say, ‘Gabriel blew his horn.’ ”

But with the advent of the quiet zone, he will be conducting some services outside this summer, and the church will sponsor outdoor concerts at 7 p.m. on Fridays.

Rodney Personius has been working through the years with Ciraolo on pushing for the quiet zone. He said he never thought about the trains when he moved to the Hidden Lake subdivision 15 years ago.

“To some degree you get accustomed to it,” he said, but he added, “It’s not like Hooterville. Sometimes they seem malicious and deliberately longer and louder.”

The quiet zones surround the CSX and Norfolk Southern railroads. A CSX spokesman said that the company follows regulations but that if engineers see a safety issue, they will blow the horn.

“We absolutely comply with quiet zones,” he said, but added, “We believe that train horns save lives.”

Overnight quiet zones at Norfolk Southern crossings in Dunkirk’s 4th Ward were established before Federal Railroad Administration rules for quiet zones and are exempt from them.

Sen. Charles E. Schumer, D-Buffalo, has pushed for the Hamburg project for years, and he and Rep. Brian Higgins, D-Buffalo, helped secure $475,000 in federal funding for the project. New York State kicked in another $50,000. There is enough money left to establish the quiet zones at two other crossings in the town, Town Engineer Gerard M. Kapsiak said.

But residents living around crossings on Pleasant Avenue, Lakeview, Bayview and North Creek roads all have asked for the zones, he said. All but one of those are owned by Erie County, as Rogers Road was. The county did not allow the traffic separators to be installed on its road, but it repaired that section of Rogers, then turned it over to the town.

For now, Ciraolo is planning a celebration at home next Tuesday evening, with a champagne toast to the end of the horns. Pete Ciraolo, a trumpeter and former jazz ensemble and band director at Lake Shore Central Schools, will play a different type of horn.

Neighbors are calling the party “The Little Engines That Could.”

Anyone up for a rousing rendition of “Take the ‘A’ Train?”


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