The future of train quiet zones in Brookfield

…is nonexistent. As I wrote a few days ago the City of Brookfield spent $7,000 on a study to implement Quiet Zones for train traffic here. In February, that report went to the Board of Public Works. Here’s the discussion from the minutes:

2) Discussion and possible action on a legislative referral to establish a railroad quiet zone in the City of Brookfield.

Mr. Grisa referred the Board members to his memo dated January 29, 2007, indicating that a report has been submitted to the Board by Ruekert & Mielke regarding the questions asked by the Board at the December meeting concerning railroad quiet zones. The Board also asked for crash rates at railroad crossings and at intersection of arterial roadways in the City. Ruekert & Mielke prepared a table showing the crashes at the railroad crossings. City staff summarized that data in a different manner to show crashes by crossing and when they occurred and crashes at each crossing compared to the number of vehicles entering the crossing.

Andy Peterson and Tom Boyke from Ruekert & Mielke were present to walk the Board members through the report and answer any additional questions. Mr. Peterson focused on changes to the Pilgrim Road/north track and Calhoun Road/south track. They recommend extending the north Pilgrim Road median to get 100 feet from the gate. Also, maintain an offset from the face of median to the edges of traveled lanes and move the “Keep Right” sign to the end of the extended median. At Calhoun Road, wayside horns are an option at both crossings, although there are residents south of the tracks and northeast of the tracks.

Mr. Peterson then reviewed the cost of these changes and asked if there were any questions.

Alderman Berg believes that there are unsafe crossings and is not convinced there have been improvements to these crossings and he is not convinced he is ready to have the trains stop using their horns at these intersections. He would like to see these areas safe before they are quiet.

Tom Grisa stated that there have been some improvements to the crossings.

Alderman Ponto stated that this is a big decision regarding both the cost and the overall safety issue of these changes, but he feels this is an important issue and that the cost could be bonded and paid over time.

Jeff Chase stated that there are other intersections that are much more dangerous than the crossings being considered here and the danger of having a crash at an intersection is greater than crossing the railroad tracks. His concern is the safety and reliability of the safety methods currently being used on the railroad tracks.

Alderman Ponto believed that to consider a quiet zone the crossings had to exceed the general safety measures that are in place.

Alderman Mellone stated that she is concerned about the pedestrian safety when the trains no longer sound their horn.

Tom Grisa stated that there are bells on the gates that sound while the gates are lowered. He also said that a quiet zone does not mean the train will never sound its horn; they still have the ability to sound the horn if they feel there is danger.

Alderman Ponto stated that he would be in favor of having the gates on Brookfield Road and he is considering this quiet zone change to affect more than just the neighborhoods along the railroad track and that it will improve the quality of like for Brookfield residents overall.

Alderman Nelson agreed with Alderman Ponto and would like to know if Elm Grove would be willing to work with the City of Brookfield on this issue. He also stated that Brookfield Road is of high priority in regards to safety and he would like some time to consider this due to the cost of these changes, as $450,000 is a costly investment for the City and should be well thought out.

Alderman Owen stated that although this cost could be bonded there will be yearly costs involved with the gates, such as maintenance of the gates and replacement costs.

Alderman Mellone asked if staff could elaborate on the meeting they had with the railroad and others concerning the quiet zone changes, specifically the lack of safety noted by the Police Department in regards to the gates.

Tom Grisa said that the Police Department dislike the gates as they cut the City in half and they have to get out of their squad to get the gates up if they malfunction.

Alderman Ponto again stated that he understands this to be something that needs to be well thought-out and it would be prudent to table this item for further consideration.

• Alderman Ponto moved to table this item until the March meeting. Alderman Berg seconded and the motion passed unanimously.

For the next meeting, the Board debated taking it off the table (a no-no in Robert’s Rules) and then decided not to do it.

9) Tabled item from February meeting: Aldermanic request to establish a railroad quiet zone in the City of Brookfield.

Alderman Ponto spoke in favor of the railroad quiet zone idea but wanted time to evaluate the issue further with constituents to see if the benefits justified the estimated costs.

This item was not moved from the table and no other considerations were made at this time.

So that’s it. The issue was dropped cold. I e-mailed 4th district Alderman Steve Ponto to see if maybe I’d missed something. His reply:

Hi Cindy –

While I am closely watching what happens in other communities, railroad quiet zones have not been on the front burner of Brookfield politics mainly because of the cost.

Steve Ponto

I am very grateful that he got back to me.

So how expensive is it? We’ll review the report given to the board next week.


  1. We use to live on Esser Ct. across the street from Wirth Park, Really enjoyed the trains. Sounds never bothered us and the trains were very interesting with all the sorted cargo of American industry. I say no to the quiet zone.

    You have kids driving around banging there brains out with super loud radios. Can’t do anything about that either. Loud mufflers on cars, Tinted car windows. How would you like to be a police officer walking up on a car like that at night, shoot first and ask questions later. These are all areas of “selected law enforcement”

    To spend nearly a half a million dollars on something that is a part of Americana is wrong. Tabling the issue was the right thing to do.

  2. Yea Larry is right, It’s ridiculous to spend that kind of money on something so petty.