UTU supports town’s noise reduction effort

February 12, 2013

CSX is fighting efforts by the UTU and neighboring residents to use flagmen in a busy rail yard to increase safety and reduce noise.

Residents living near the yard in Worcester, Mass., recently complained to city and railroad officials about the constant use of locomotive horns at the yard, especially overnight.

At the suggestion of the UTU, CSX began using flagmen in 2007 at a similar rail yard nearby after residents there complained about railroad-related noise, including the frequent blaring of train horns and whistles all hours of the night as they passed an automotive facility.

Soon after that system was implemented, noise-related complaints about CSX trains from town officials and residents declined.

Now Worcester residents are asking why a similar system could not be put into place at the CSX yard in their town.

The UTU agrees. Not surprisingly, CSX does not.

“The UTU New England States Legislative Board supports the position of the residents,” State Legislative Director George Casey said. “The creation of the flagman job in Spencer was established as direct result of my contact with the local elected officers there. Naturally, I would like to see UTU members pick up similar jobs in Worcester.

“It’s a simple solution that I am sure the carrier will resist and will obfuscate with the rubric of Federal regulation. Clearly, it is the tactic the carrier attorney has already employed.

“Further, this area is in the middle of a thickly settled city neighborhood, and in close proximity to the University of Massachusetts Medical Center and the St. Vincent Hospital. There has been a railroad yard in that location for over 100 years, and the neighbors certainly know that it existed, but the new intermodal facility that was constructed has greatly expanded the footprint of the railroad, not to mention increased the use of locomotive horns. 

CSX attorney Robert E. Longden Jr. said federal regulations require trains to blow their horns when entering the freight yard and when passing another train. The purpose is to warn workers who might be on the tracks. The horn is also sounded if there is a safety hazard, such as something on the tracks, he said.

Longden said a review was done in response to noise complaints and it was found that the times when the train horns were sounded and the decibel levels from those horns did not exceed federal regulations.