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Yorkville homeowners renew call to silence train horns

River's Edge subdivision residents seek quiet zone designation near downtown

YORKVILLE – City residents are again bringing up their desire for a railroad quiet zone and voicing their concerns about train whistles being disruptive to residents' quality of life.

Six people addressed the issue during the regular Yorkville City Council meeting on Tuesday, May 28 at City Hall, 800 Game Farm Road. Ward 1 Alderman Ken Koch and Ward 4 Alderman Seaver Tarulis were absent from the meeting.

The Federal Railroad Administration requires locomotive engineers to sound their horns when approaching public rail crossings. Crossings that are designated as quiet zones are exempt from the FRA horn requirement.

Fred DuSell, a resident of the River's Edge subdivision, said during the council meeting's public comment portion that he's coming before the City Council about the issue again on behalf of a nearby resident whose 2-year-old child is being woken up by train horns all the time.

“Hopefully you guys can help out and get some resolve on this for peace and quiet for the quality of life for us and for property values,” DuSell said.

Sharon Lowy, a resident of the White Oak Estates subdivision, said she believes the value of her home has gone down by about $100,000. She said she knows people who have tried to sell their property and if a train is heard while a potential buyer is looking at the house, the buyer leaves.

"It's just really unbearable," Lowy said.

The comments during the Tuesday, May 28 meeting came after the city previously looked into conducting a quiet zone study in 2017 but ultimately decided to not go through with it.

There are currently two railroads operating through town: Illinois Railway, formerly known as Illinois Railnet, and Burlington Northern Santa Fe, or BNSF. 

Crossings on the Illinois Railway line in the city's downtown area include Mill Street, Heustis Street, Bridge Street, South Main Street, State Street, Adams Street, Morgan Street, River Birch Lane, Poplar Drive and the Hoover Forest Preserve, along with some private crossings. Crossings in the area for the BNSF line on the city's north side are on Mill Road, Kennedy Road and Cannonball Trail. 

Thomas Milschewski of Yorkville said during the Tuesday, May 28 meeting that the trains have been going through town since about 1870 and residents were aware the trains were there when they moved in. He said he knows the whistles are loud, but people asking for the city to go through with feasibility studies and putting quiet zones in place isn't logical.

"That is not going to be cheap," Milschewski said.

Ward 3 Alderman Joel Frieders said the city referred to the expertise of engineers from Engineering Enterprises, Inc. that have helped the Village of Montgomery go through the process of getting their own quiet zone. He said that information helped the city anticipate what it would take for the United City of Yorkville to go through with a feasibility study and actually enacting the quiet zone.

Along with the cost of the study alone being about $20,000, Frieders said, his understanding was that it would take $250,000 per railroad crossing, which includes additional construction costs in creating the quiet zone.

Frieders said the south end of the city has nine crossings within a quarter mile, which would run the cost of the project to at least $2.25 million. He said another consequence would include the study having to also include north side crossings – including the ones at Poplar Road and River Birch Drive – and not just the crossings in question nearby River's Edge and White Oak Estates. Those additional crossings would add $3 million to the project, he said.

"We’ve got other areas to spend money, and I don’t think quiet zones is a responsible use of city money," Frieders said.

Frieders said it's a lot more complicated than just those nine crossings. He said if the city ended up going through the process of establishing the quiet zone, at least five of those crossings would have to close and something else, like fences with barbed wire, would have to be put up to discourage people from trespassing on the tracks.

"The idea of having like a gated downtown doesn’t strike me as being something that I, number one, would want to invest money in, but it looks more like a penitentiary than a downtown,” Frieders said.

Kathy Kelso, also a River's Edge resident, said she believes the problem is solve-able because other nearby communities – including Sugar Grove and Aurora – have been able to do it. She said she thinks it's worth the city spending some tax dollars for the people that are impacted by the train horns.

"It seems to me there’s got to be a better way than waking up people at 2 o’clock in the morning," Kathy Kelso said.

• This story has been updated to clarify Ward 3 Alderman Joel Frieders' comments on the costs of the quiet zone study alone versus estimated total project costs.

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