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Feds Blame City, City Blames Feds for Dropping Ball on Train Horns

Federal Railroad Administration official tells citizen that Wauwatosa failed to meet deadlines, and refers to bringing back the horn ban as an "if," not a "when."

There seems to be some misunderstanding or confusion about who told whom what, and when, regarding Wauwatosa's train horn "quiet zone," which was rescinded last week.

The city said Monday, and continues to say on Tuesday, that the Federal Railroad Administration failed to process its request for an extension of the quiet zone on time.

But the official of the FRA responsible for overseeing train crossings in our region said in an email forwarded to Wauwatosa Patch that it was the city that failed both to install the necessary crossing improvements and to file its reports and request on time.

"The reason that the City lost this quiet zone is because the City did not install the required safety measures or file the required Notices by June 24, 2013 to ensure continuation of the quiet zone," FRA regional crossing manager Tammy Wagner wrote to a Wauwatosa citizen who was upset by "ungodly blasting horns" at night.

Wagner continued, "The City submitted a waiver petition on May 6, 2013 to extend the quiet zone, but that notice was received too late. The FRA’s waiver process requires a thorough review and approval by the FRA’s Safety Board and must be published in the Federal Register for the 45-day comment period.

"Since the City has failed to meet the Train Horn Rule requirements set forth in 49 CFR Part 222 by June 24, 2013, the train horns began sounding last week."

But City Attorney Alan Kesner maintained Tuesday, after hearing Wagner's comments, that the city did meet all deadlines and it was the FRA that didn't follow through.

"I don't want to play the blame game," Kesner said, "but we did get all the safety measures installed, and we did get it filed; they didn't process the waiver request in time."

Kesner also pointed out that the date Wagner identified as Wauwatosa's filing date – May 6 – is in fact more than 45 days before the June 24 deadline.

And, according to the calendar, he's right. It's 49 days prior.

"We filed everything when we were supposed to," Kesner said. "It's their responsibility to get it published in the Federal Register."

Regardless of who is right about making their deadlines, it could make for a long, tedious summer – or perhaps much longer – for those Wauwatosa residents who are annoyed or downright angry about every train sounding its horn at every crossing, around the clock.

With italics added by Patch, Wagner also wrote:

"The Wauwatosa, WI quiet zone may be re-instated if the FRA Safety Board approves the waiver petition."

That would suggest that reinstatement of the quiet zone is not a sure thing even once everyone agrees that the city has met its obligations in improving its crossings' safety precautions.

Former Wauwatosa Assistant Fire Chief Mike Anton raised such a possibility Monday when he said he had information the FRA might be taking the rescision of the quiet zone as "an opportunity" to impose even higher standards on Wauwatosa.

Wagner had not been asked to address that question in her email, and could not be reached for comment Tuesday.

achambers July 02, 2013 at 05:22 PM
Classic. Please just get the quiet zone back asap. What a boondoggle.
TGriffin July 02, 2013 at 11:54 PM
Many thanks to Jim Price for getting the facts on this story. I agree with "achambers" - I just want the racket to stop. Clearly someone dropped the ball and we are the ones paying for it with lost sleep.
john smity July 30, 2013 at 01:34 AM
Okay, so some little moron with earbuds walked into a train...first of all, teach your kids to pay attention to their surroundings....what's really crazy is that during the Tosa tonight concerts, when 1000-some people are walking around after drinking wine, beer, whatever...NO TRAIN HORNS...really tired of hearing those damn horns every 1/2 hour when you are trying to sleep...so much for these cool nights when you could keep the windows open
Anna July 30, 2013 at 10:57 AM
what an incredibly insensitive and ignorant post, john smity. a child is dead. someone's son. a grieving mother that still lives in this small community, in fact. there are numerous intelligent ways to get your point across. whatever your point is, seeing as how i stopped reading your post after that first terrible sentence. you should be ashamed of yourself.

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