Reprint: The Noise about Quiet Zones (UPDATE)

I get a variation of “what can we do about train whistles” e-mailed to me every summer. Today there’s an article in the paper about Waukesha getting it together and making quiet zones happen in their community. Brookfield’s Mayor Jeff Speaker continues to manage the city much like his apartment complex. Lots goes undone.

Since the writing below nothing has changed, so I’ll just pop it up there again. If you really want something to change on this one, call your alderman.

Tuesday, Sep 18 2007, 06:55 AM

Trains are noisy. More trains go through Brookfield than a few years ago. Brookfield is noisier. It doesn’t take a rocket scientist to put the logic together.

Something else important happened, too. People built (primarily in VK subdivisions) really expensive homes right against the train tracks. Now it’s a problem because trains use those tracks. Several months ago 4th district Alderman Steve Ponto made a referral to study the issue and implement the federal rules for quiet zones in the City of Brookfield. I never saw the issue make it to the agenda.

Other communities are starting to explore the idea of implementing the quiet zone restrictions. Today’s article in the MJS shows last night Pewaukee talked about it.

To receive permission for quiet train passage requires a number of safety improvements per track intersection. Gates, lights, and bells need to be installed. A median barrier must be in place to keep cars from crossing through the gates. I haven’t plowed through the details recently to see if it’s more than that.

I tried to bring this issue forward about 2002/2003. At that time, all the community would have had to do was declare itself “quiet” and the trains would have complied. (FYI, Council President Ponto didn’t put it to agenda!) Had that happened, Brookfield would have been grandfathered in under the new guidelines and been given a few years to finalize intersection improvements. We already have the gates, lights, and bells. I was told at the time that it would be $1 million to upgrade the rest.

It’s worth it. I’ve never enjoyed the whistles. There’s a huge chunk of change sitting in the piggy bank at city hall, and setting up for quiet zones would probably be a good place to spend it. Expect the issue to push forward closer to election time. Ponto will want to have one “cause of the people” on the floor as his constituents head to the ballot box.

PS – This happened in December of 2006, but I don’t remember any study results:

5) Alderman Garvens moved approval of the Resolution approving budget transfer requested by the Director of Administration: transfer $7,000 from Contingency appropriation 101-910-590 to Mayor special activities account 101-101-510-001, for purposes of funding railroad quiet zone study costs. The motion was seconded by Alderman Reddin and carried unanimously. Resolution No. 7666-06*

UPDATE – 5:10pm – I’m off to city hall tomorrow to read the study that was apparently done on this issue. I don’t remember seeing it come up on the agenda, but I certainly could have missed something. I’ll let you know what I find.


  1. Now, if they could just get people to put the mufflers back on their Harleys, life would be good…