For hundreds of Pleasanton residents--perhaps even thousands--who live within earshot of the Union Pacific railroad trains that travel through Pleasanton every night, a better night's sleep may be on the way. The City Council agreed Tuesday to spend $150,000 to study the financial feasibility and ongoing costs of placing full crossing barriers on the four grade crossings at the tracks, a project that could cost $2 million for starters. These fully-protected crossings, which would bar both pedestrians and vehicles from skirting around the single gate now in position on each side of the tracks, would allow Union Pacific engineers to silence their horns when coming through town. As it is, state and railroad laws require them to toot four times as they are approaching each crossing. In the old days, when there was one, maybe two trains a night, the horns were tolerable. Today, however, with much heavier train traffic, it's almost a constant barrage of diesel horns sounding from dusk to dawn, enough to make even the soundest sleeper toss, turn and wake, train after train after train.
Manny Singh, who lives in one of the newer developments on the Bernal property at least a half mile from the tracks, said the ever-increasing freight train traffic has turned nostalgia into nightmares. With four blows of the horn at the four crossings--Santa Rita, Saint Mary, Rose and Angela--that's 12 times for each train each way, not counting the crossing at Castlewood, where the horn noise is just as loud. It's actually a bit worse because regulations require engineers to sound two long blasts of their horn, one short one and then another long blast as they approach each street crossing. These streets are fairly close together, which means horns are blaring from the time the engine rounds the bend to come into Pleasanton.
This is not a new issue, but we give Singh credit for his rallying cry, going door to door with supporters to talk about the noise problem and then motivating at least 185 families--representing a total of 756 family members--to send emails to the council asking for help. Many of them were at Tuesday night's council meeting to voice their complaints. Singh cited statistics which show that the freight rail industry is enjoying its biggest boom in nearly a century, which is good, with plans to double or triple its runs through Pleasanton, which is bad for those who live along the tracks or even a mile or two away. It won't be cheap to quiet the trains but Mayor Jennifer Hosterman likens it to other quality of life issues the city government has financed, from the restoration of Kottinger Creek to solar panels on Fire Station No. 4 to more expensive rubberized asphalt for street repaving programs. We'll await the final price tag to make a final judgment, but at this juncture, noiseless trains and safer railroad crossings sound good to us.