Downtown Columbus could become ‘quiet zone’ for trains

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COLUMBUS, Ind. – As the City of Columbus expects more trains to roll by downtown in the coming months, some of those who live and work by the tracks are getting sick of the noise. A recent study expects train traffic to increase from eight trains per day to 22 per day.

For those with businesses nearby, that could be a problem.

“We have four crossings within a quarter of a mile here right next to Hotel Indigo. They also have to blow consistently until they reach the crossing," said Dora Hotel Company Regional Manager Cindy Waddle. Just as she began to start another sentence, the sound of a passing train rang through the lobby. "Here we go...”

For safety reasons, the trains are required to blow their horns when approaching intersections. Waddle says the trains haven't necessarily hurt their business. She says the Columbus hotel is one of the top performing Hotel Indigo's in the country, however the late night train noises don't do them any favors.

"We send out surveys to our guests, they respond back, give us a score..." Waddle explained. "While we score off the charts in every other area, quality of sleep or noise does not always fare so well, and it is always dependent on the train.”

Noise concerns not only reached the front desk of the hotel, but also the steps of City Hall. Just this week, the city's Redevelopment Commission decided to take the first step in making downtown a designated quiet zone for trains.

“I think it makes a great deal of sense for people who really are bothered and people who live much closer to it," said lifelong resident and downtown business owner Jeff Baker. "It really is a hard thing to deal with.”

The city decided to bring in an outside company, CTC Inc, to review the four main downtown railroad crossings. The company will help the city determine what safety upgrades are needed at the crossings in order to keep the trains quiet. It could take as many as 18 months until they circle back with their findings.

As for Baker, he doesn't mind the train horns. However, his business is located a little farther from the tracks.

"I suppose you hear the train but it doesn't really affect anything," Baker said. "I actually kind of find it interesting to listen to in the background.”

If the city does decide to move forward with those upgrades, previous estimates say it could cost as much as $1 million, a figure that some nearby businesses feel is worth it.

"We would like to see a quiet zone designation and we feel like there's a lot of support to get that," Waddle said.

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