First, we wish to be clear about this: Public safety at railroad crossings within Sioux City is paramount; prevention of accidents, injuries and deaths should be the primary goal.
However, if steps can be taken to diminish noise for residents who live and businesses which operate in proximity to crossings without negatively impacting safety, we're all for them.
To this end, we support action by the City Council on Monday to expand a downtown "quiet zone" in which trains can navigate railroad crossings without having to sound their horns. Under federal law, locomotive engineers must begin to sound train horns at least 15 seconds, and no more than 20 seconds, in advance of all public crossings, but the law allows individual localities to mitigate train horn noise by installing specific safety features at those crossings.
The council approved a $111,015 contract with SRF Consulting Group Inc. of Minneapolis to design expansion of the downtown "quiet zone" to include crossings at Jackson, Virginia, Court and Iowa streets.
The city established the original downtown "quiet zone" from Pearl to Jackson streets in 2010. The "quiet zone" expansion properly reflects changes to downtown, including completed and planned housing projects, since then.
The city shouldn't stop with downtown, though.
As suggested at Monday's meeting by Mayor Bob Scott, the city should study the concept of a "quiet zone" in residential neighborhoods plagued by train noise - long-suffering Leeds, for one example.
"I want a comprehensive quiet zone in this community," Scott said. "It's not fair that we look at one part of the town and the rest of the town has to live with those kinds of sounds. Let's make sure we are looking at all areas of the community."
Well said. We couldn't agree more.