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Marshalltown May Silence Trains to Revitalize Downtown Living After Tornado

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MARSHALLTOWN, Iowa -- Marshalltown continues to gauge residents' interest to live, work and play downtown as they rebuild from an EF-3 tornado.  Mayor Joel Greer says one issue is loud and clear.  "Limit the train noise," he said.

J.P. Howard agrees.  He has owned the historic Tremont Inn downtown for over 20 years and says he has lost business due to the tracks being four blocks away.  "The trains wake them up and it discourages them from staying downtown," said Howard.

On July 22, Marshalltown City Council members took up discussion on creating "Quiet Zones" to prohibit the Union Pacific Railroad from blowing their horns.  Greer said, "We have something like 55 railroad trains going through in a 24-hour period.  Howard added, "We have four railroad crossings that they have to by law throw three long (horns) at each one."  Those numbers project over 600 horn blasts a day.  For Howard's customers or potential loft owners looking for rest, it is bad for business.  Howard said, "It is a big tax revenue and I think it would quickly help our revitalization."

Additional construction would be required to create the quiet zones, and engineers could still blow their horn if they sense danger.  "It can be done.  The price tag is about a million dollars," Greer said.

To increase success of the quiet zones, many cities create supplementary safety measures.  Marshalltown created a channeling device at one intersection years ago when they first became interested in quiet zones.  Now, residents could expect something similar at every railroad crossing.  "If you are walking or riding a bike, you have to get off the bike and walk carefully, so it gives you a chance to see or hear anything coming," said Greer.

It is a decision that could put downtown Marshalltown living on the right track for success.  "That`s the trend in urban areas and why not have that be here, too," said Greer.

A public hearing to discuss quiet zones has not been set at this time. Railroad crossing arms along with flashing lights and bells at intersections are still required in quiet zones.

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