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'It's Driving Me Insane,' Train Horn Back In Waltham Quiet Zone After Crossings Fail Federal Inspection

WALTHAM (CBS) - The Federal Railroad Administration is inspecting more than 900 "quiet zones" around the country. The zones are sections of tracks where trains do not have to sound their horns at crossings.

So far, the FRA says they have found crossings in Waltham and Chelsea that are not in compliance with quiet zone requirements, meaning the horn is back.

"It's driving me insane," Nicky Franchi told WBZ-TV.

Franchi has lived in Waltham for 13 years. Her home is between the Moody and Beaver Street crossings and she's used to the train tracks in her backyard.

"When we were looking at this house we stood in the backyard when the train went by, we stood in the house with the windows open and the windows closed to see, could we live with this level of noise. We learned what the level of noise was going to be, and we decided we could live with that. At the intersections around us, there were signs that said, "no horn," so we knew all we were going to be living with is the sound of the train going by quickly," Franchi explained.

But Franchi says she never agreed to live with train horns, blasting every 30 to 40 minutes throughout the day. Even at 2:30 in the morning.

"Historically if we heard a horn, it meant there was someone on the tracks. That would be the only reason they would sound a horn. I kept thinking, I do not see anybody. I do not see anybody on the tracks. Why are they sounding the horn? And then I started to make the connection - wait a minute, they're sounding the horn every time the train comes now," she said.

The FRA says the horn was brought back because recent inspections found Waltham to be non-complaint.

"When we began looking into these crossings, we found that they had none of the required supplemental safety measures or alternative safety measures," a spokesperson for the FRA told us in an email.

The spokesperson also said a letter was sent to the city of Waltham more than 10 years ago in 2008, warning that the quiet zone was not in compliance.

The FRA says supplemental safety measures are pre‐approved engineering treatments installed at certain public highway‐rail crossings within the quiet zone to help maximize safety. They include medians or channelization devices, one‐way streets with gates, four quadrant gate systems, and temporary or permanent crossing closures. Cities come up with a plan and design that includes the type of equipment to be installed. The FRA then provides guidance on what will or will not work.

The FRA says the maximum volume for the train horn is 110 decibels. The CDC says that's the equivalent of a live rock concert.

"I don't wanna be in a rock concert every 40, 35 minutes," said Franchi. "My neighbor next door actually called the police the other night at 2 a.m. She was so frustrated, and the police said you're not our first call. She called the city the next morning, but she kind of got a run around answer of there's something Waltham needs to do."

The FRA says once cities make the necessary safety improvements at crossings, the horns can stop. Until then, Franchi is trying her best to make sure her family gets some sleep.

"I put some noise machines on in the last couple weeks because sleep is vital here. I have a 13-year-old, an 11-year old and an 8-year old," she told WBZ.

Franchi is hoping she gets some answers soon.

"I'm frustrated with the T for not communicating about the horn, but I'm more frustrated with Waltham for not complying. I think a step in the right direction is for them to share with us how they're going to rectify this. How are they going to solve this problem? When are they going to start working on the intersections? How long is it going to take?"

The MBTA told WBZ it has no role in the matter and that it's between individual communities and the FRA.

The city of Waltham did not provide anyone for an interview, but in an email they told us the city is planning an emergency meeting once they get more direction from the FRA.


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