“We spent a lot of money on beautifying the town. And I think that’s all part of it.”~Michael Kots, City Councilman
“We spent a lot of money on beautifying the town. And I think that’s all part of it.”

~Michael Kots, City Councilman
November 1, 2013

For decades train-horn noise on the Union Pacific Railroad lines slicing through Carroll has emerged as a primary concern of voters.

Other matters have come to the fore as a succession of city officials considered possible remedies only to run into regulatory and logistical obstacles, not to mention legal hurdles, cost concerns and, often, a lack of sheer political will. But train-horn noise remains a live issue - and Mayor Adam Schweers says he's intent on seeking a solution.

Earlier this week, on a 4-2 vote, Carroll City Council members approved a $17,600 study from an Ames firm that will examine a raft of strategies to create a "quiet zone" in which engineers could use directional horns to reduce noise from passing trains in Carroll.

Bolton & Menck Inc. consulting engineers and surveyors will consider raised medians on streets that intersect with the two rail lines, four-quadrant gates and closing selected crossings - and a combination strategy. The city expects to receive the study in March.

Councilman Michael Kots said reducing train-horn noise is a quality-of-life issue.

"We spent a lot of money on beautifying the town - and I think that's all part of it," Kots said.

Kots said the construction and development costs of a quiet zone could run up to $3 million.

"That's the figure that's been thrown around a bit," he said.

Kots said he's received emails from Carroll residents who want the noise-mitigation pursued.

Council members Tom Tait and Carolyn Siemann voted against the study.

One major sticking point is liability. As it stands, the Union Pacific is responsible for the maintenance of secure intersections. Should the city intervene with noise-reducing measures - as other municipalities like Ames have done - it raises liability issues.

Schweers has said he thinks reducing train-horn noise would boost business in downtown Carroll. The mayor said he's aware of businesses that would site in Carroll were it not for the noise.

In an August 2012 strategic-planning session, Schweers elevated potential train-horn-noise reduction to a higher priority. Carroll City Council members also deemed the issue top tier at that goal-setting session.

The City of Jefferson, on the same UP line, is considering a quiet zone as well.

Gabriel Nelson, an engineer with Snyder & Associates of Ankeny, presented a range of options for dealing with train-horn noise in the Greene County seat. One possibility would be to close the crossings at Pinet Street, Maple Street and Wilson Street, and improve the safeguards at Grimmell Road and Cedar Street with raised medians. Wayside horns, directional devices that send sound precisely down the roadway at traffic, could be installed as well.