Things are going to get a little more quiet in downtown Grand Island as the city's Quiet Zone Improvement Project nears completion.
Project Manager Scott Griepenstroh says it won't be long before train horns stop interfering with conversations in downtown. He says after wayside horns are installed and tested at the Walnut crossing, train engineers won't normally have to blow their horns when they approach the street crossings.
"If there's trespassers or animals on the track the engineers they can't move left or right, so they've got to blast their horn to get people or animals out of the way," says Griepenstroh.
Griepenstroh says horns may also sound when there's track maintenance underway, or when trains use the side tracks near Walnut and Pine, but he says with the many trains passing through GI the difference should be noticeable.
He says a train horn sounds at about 100 decibels in a 500 feet radius around the crossing, then diminishes to between 80-90 decibels at around 1500 feet.
"115 decibels is the sound of a loud rock concert, so that 96-100 decibel range which trains are supposed to sound their horns - that's a lot of noise coming through an area," says Griepenstroh.
Businesses downtown say they're happy to hear that things are going to quiet down, but some say it's actually been the Quiet Zone construction that's been the biggest hindrance.
"It'll be nice to have it done because they blocked off the train tracks for a long time, so we didn't really get a lot of business because no one could really find it," says Tyler Cook, a salesperson at Willis Shoe and Boot.
Employees at the store say less train noise will make downtown nice for customers too.
"I haven't heard it so much in the building, but once you get out to your cars and stuff it's pretty noticeable," says Willis Shoe and Boot Salesperson John Frankenberg.
But first things will get a little noisier: during the last weeks of the project trains will still sound their horns and the new wayside horns will sound too. Griepenstroh says this is to test the system and let engineers get used to using it.
"I sure hope there isn't any unexpected hitches that are coming my way because the week of May 7th, that's when I'm hoping it to be finally quieter in downtown Grand Island," he says.
Griepenstroh says after reimbursement from groups like the Department of Roads and Union Pacific, the project will have cost Grand Island about $315,000.