Wayside horns to decrease noise

By Shivangi Potdar

New wayside horns tested by the City of DeKalb on Friday may be the answer to years of complaints regarding loud train horns.

City Engineer Joel Maurer mounted the wayside horn atop his Chevrolet Tahoe at the Second Street railroad crossing and registered sound readings comparing them to the train horns.

About 80 trains traverse DeKalb daily, each blasting their horn ahead of the crossings, Maurer said. The train horns are blown on the locomotive and can be heard about a mile away.

The sound from the new wayside horns is expected to diminish by four blocks, he said.

The new horns from Railroad Controls Limited, a Texas-based company, will be mounted on the cross bucks, one facing each way, on First, Fourth, 10th and possibly Seventh streets, said City Manager Mark Biernacki.

After the installation of the new horns, an indicator light will inform the train engineer they are working, Biernacki said. The wayside horns will replace the need for the trains to blow their horns.

The cost of installing the horns at each intersection will be $90,000 to $100,000, Biernacki said.

DeKalb will absorb the cost of the wayside horns through existing funds.

“It’s [the total cost] about $600,000, and it’s going to come out of the TIF fund,” DeKalb Mayor Greg Sparrow said.

The other option to improve the quality of life would be to turn the intersections into full-gate closures.

It is more cost effective to put horns in than full gate closures, which cost $300,000 to $400,000 a piece, Biernacki said.

The horns produced a sound reading of 75 decibels near First Street and Lincoln Highway, 10 decibels less than the train’s horn at the same location.

“At night time, you’re not going to have a lot of traffic,” Biernacki said. “The difference will be even more apparent.

Any help to lessen the sound is welcome, said Jennifer Groce, executive director of Main Street DeKalb Inc., who was present at the testing. This is an incentive for businesses to relocate downtown.

“What that sounded like was a train that’s all the way back,” Groce said. “It’s very tolerable and a very nice thing, especially for pedestrians.”

The new horns have to be approved by the Illinois Commerce Commission and the Illinois Department of Transportation, Biernacki said.

They are expected to be functional by winter, he said.

The horns will require routine maintenance after the 15 to 20-year guarantee, Maurer said.