Hastings looking to add railroad quiet zones

HASTINGS, Neb. (KSNB) - It's a sound that can be heard all the way across town; a train horn. With the new half-cent tax, the City of Hastings is hoping to implement quiet zones.

The hope is to not only make neighborhoods happier, but also downtown businesses like Avani Spa and Yoga Studio, where relaxation is often interrupted.

"I wouldn't say it completely ruins it, but it's a bit of a complication," said Billie Nelsen."It's not so bad when we have the doors closed, but if a client is coming or going; or if a yoga student is coming or going, you can't really hear or carry on a conversation. You kind of just have to wait it out."

The city researched implementing quiet zones nearly eight years ago. The system would be similar to the one in Grand Island, but it won't silence the horns.

"One of the misunderstandings that many people think is that if you implement a quiet zone, that it's going to be completely quite," said Dave Wacker, city engineer.

Wacker said those horns can't be silenced because the rail line running through the city is an Amtrak one. Federal laws require Amtrak to blow their horns whenever they enter and leave town.

However, while the horns will still sound. The quiet zones could lead to other projects, like walkways, to help promote better safety.

"There's been recent meetings with the railroad about some of these concerns and blocking of tracks. so I think whatever comes to the case. Overall, safety awareness could be learned about a community," said Wacker.

While there will still be some train noise, the reduced noise will be welcoming to downtown business.

"If you're right there on first street and you're trying to get a business started, I think it does have an impact. I think it's going to be something that will hopefully help new businesses get started, as well as invited new companies into town," said Mayor Corey Stutte.

Before the project can get going, the city will need to negotiate with Amtrak. Once that's complete, it could take up to a year, before the zones are implemented.