To the Editor:
I am responding to Curt Howell’s letter to the editor, “Quiet Zone is a terrible waste of our tight tax dollars” (The Observer, Dec. 20). The city’s investment in our road/tracks infrastructure will be a good investment for several reasons and would like to address Mr. Howell’s points.
The less than $200,000 spent came out of the general fund, which does not fund our “crumbling streets,” for which repairs come out of the public works budget. We are not sacrificing any street paving to make improvement at our intersections with the railroad.
Statistics show the Quiet Zone improvements made will reduce the likelihood for an accident at the seven intersections in town. Train operators will absolutely be able to blow the horn if there is a safety concern on the tracks. If a pedestrian trespasses on the UP tracks, the whistle can blow at the operator’s discretion.
As a city councilor, one of my focuses has been on economic development. A quick review of online hotel reviews or speaking with hotel or bed-and-breakfast operators in the downtown area shows that the whistles adversely impact their businesses. One hotel actually gives guests earplugs for their stay. The unnecessary whistles are negatively impacting some of our businesses and a Quiet Zone will help those businesses.
In addition, the regular interruption of sleep caused by the train whistles are a public safety and public health concern. Citizens have complained to me that train whistles are waking them up at night. We have an average of 23 trains passing through La Grande every day, with each train requiring to blow the whistle seven times, including at night. According to the National Safety Council, fatigued worker productivity costs employers $1200 to $3100 per employee annually. Chronic sleep deprivation causes accidents, depression, obesity, cardiovascular disease and other illnesses. It is good for the health of our citizens and our visitors to have a Quiet Zone.
I am confident that our decision to pursue and fund a Quiet Zone is good for public safety, public health and the economy of La Grande.
La Grande City Councilor