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Infrastructure Bill Could Ease Train Noise Pollution in San Jose Japantown

SAN JOSE (KPIX) -- A newly-passed $1 trillion infrastructure bill could aid in the upkeep of railyards, which would bring much needed relief to neighbors in San Jose's Japantown.

According to Congresswoman Zoe Lofgren, the historic bill contains $3 billion in available "competitive grants for railroad crossing elimination."

"We know that that's a problem here in San Jose and we know that we need to have some quiet zones in Japantown and some other areas," Lofgren said at a press event Tuesday. "I'm going to be working with the mayor and with the county supervisors to make sure that we get our applications in and, hopefully, we get funding so that people can sleep at night."

Since 2019, neighbors have been battling with Union Pacific Railroad over increased use of the rail line. The trains run through Japantown at 7th and Jackson Streets with apartments, duplexes and condos in close proximity.

In June, the city of San Jose threatened legal action against UPRR due to Japantown's lack of safeguards and measures. Trains are required by federal law to blare their horns at oncoming traffic and pedestrians. The horns, often in excess of 100 dB, are sounded regardless of the time of day.

Community activist Chris Wemp said he felt "optimistic" after Lofgren's comments on Tuesday. Wemp has spent several years rallying neighbors and pressing elected officials into action.

"Congresswoman Lofgren is very present and active in wanting to resolve the issue," Wemp said.

In September, the city of San Jose announced plans to install temporary measures to create a "partial quiet zone" along a two-mile stretch of the line.

By removing parking spaces, implementing signage and paint markings, trains would then not be allowed to operate their horns from 10 p.m. to 7 a.m. At last report, the temporary fix will be completed by Feb. 2022.

"We know residents' sleep and mental health are being tested nightly," said an update on the city's website.

If Rep. Lofgren can help secure the millions of dollars in federal grants, the funds will be used to complete a reconstruction of the rail line and would create a permanent all-day quiet zone, with an estimated completion by 2024 or 2025.

"And so it seems like there is good momentum going forward now. However, there continues to be a need for community members to continue elevating (the issue) that the noise is severely disrupting the quality of life and I think that helps to preserve some of that energy in getting this issue solved," Wemp said.

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