Blow off: Trains horns drone on

After a long summer of passing trains sounding their 96+ decibel horns through each public grade intersection, August 12 was to be the first night of peace and relative quiet for Charlottesville residents living by the train tracks. However, even though the Federal Railroad Administration officially re-recognized Charlottesville's status as a "quiet zone," there is still no rest for weary downtown residents, as some engineers continue to sound off all the way through town.

According to Michael Allenby, who lives in the pink warehouse complex on South Street, it appears some engineers just haven't gotten the memo. "It's basically just been inconsistent– it's not everyone, and it's not just one in ten," he says. "I just kind of roll my eyes, but I would assume they're all going to stop at some point."

One person who doesn't share Allenby 's patience is Deputy City Attorney Lisa Kelley. Since contacting all the rail companies that use the Charlottesville tracks before the "quiet zone" took effect on August 12, she has been adamant in telling CSX and Norfolk Southern– the two railways that own the tracks– to pipe down.

"We have called them to tell them to please stop honking their horns," says Kelley. "Both of them had previously notified us that they would comply and that they are responsible."

But according to Allenby, the one time he looked out his window and saw a train making the ruckus, it didn't belong to either of those two companies– it was an Amtrak train. Although Amtrak doesn't pass by Allenby's apartment very often, the passenger-moving company does lease the tracks from the freight companies, CSX and Norfolk Southern. For that reason, Amtrak was among the rail companies that Kelley notified before August 12 and thus should not be sounding their horns through every intersection.

Though Kelley says nobody has cited that particular company as an offender, she wouldn't hesitate to get on Amtrak's case were she to receive a complaint. "I'd be happy to send a 'demand' letter to Amtrak and a copy of the letter to the FRA saying that they're not in compliance," she says.

While the City is currently exploring its legal options should the horns continue to sound, Kelley says that, in the meantime, the best way to put an end to persistent tooting is for people to call the railways themselves. "We've been giving people the public relations numbers for CSX and Norfolk Southern so they are somewhat accountable for their actions."

And if that fails, Allenby has another solution. "Maybe I'll put a sign outside reminding the engineers," he says. It can only help, as it appears that, to paraphrase a Hollywood classic, what we have here is a failure to communicate.