The cacophony of train horns along the University of Colorado A-Line, which has been rousting residents from their sleep and drowning out patio conversations for more than two years, won’t be silenced as quickly as many had hoped.
Despite getting the Colorado Public Utilities Commission’s certification on Wednesday of Quebec Street — the 11th and final crossing — on the 23-mile line between Denver Union Station and Denver International Airport, the Regional Transportation District says it still needs assurances from federal railroad officials that everything is fully in order before applications for quiet zones are submitted.
There are meetings scheduled with the Federal Railroad Administration in Denver and Washington, D.C., this week and next, yet no guarantee exists that those get-togethers will bring a speedy end to an issue that has raised tempers to a boiling point among thousands of neighbors who want their peace and quiet back.
“It’s like the pendulum of an old grandfather clock ticking side to side for 2½ years,” said David Martin, a Park Hill resident who keeps his windows closed in the summer to block out the horn blasts from trains crossing Dahlia Street. “Feelings have changed from being excited for the A-line to open, to disappointed, to hopeful, to angry, to deflated and back to excited again. Just when you think it’s going to end, one more surprise surfaces that causes yet another delay.”
Residents at an RTD meeting in Park Hill last month were given reason to hope that once all the crossings on the A-Line were certified as safe, Denver and Aurora would submit quiet zone applications with the FRA. The final crossing received approval from the PUC on Wednesday, which theoretically should have triggered the submittals and a 21-day review period before horns could be shut off at crossings.
That would have brought silence to the line during the first week of August.
But RTD spokeswoman Laurie Huff said federal railroad officials haven’t given RTD assurances that all safety measures needed for quiet zones are in order, despite a letter RTD sent to the federal agency in May requesting those assurances.
“We are continuing to ask them for clarification,” she said Wednesday.
RTD doesn’t want Denver and Aurora to submit their applications prematurely, fearing that any problems found by the FRA would lead to even longer delays. A request for comment sent to the FRA late Wednesday was not immediately returned.
A city official from Aurora on Wednesday said the city wouldn’t submit its quiet zone application with the FRA until “outstanding” issues at the crossings are resolved. She didn’t elaborate on what those issues are. A Denver public works spokeswoman said the city needed more information before being able to determine a timeline for its quiet zone application.
In the meantime, the last two flaggers at Quebec Street are expected to be dismissed from duty Monday. The flaggers at the other 10 crossings on the A-Line, who for 2½ years had been providing a safety backstop while railroad personnel tried to figure out how to resolve a gate timing conundrum, have been dismissed already.