The view of the Greely Road railroad from Sally Brown’s Cumberland home. Rachel Vitello / The Forecaster

A nearly 20-year effort to silence train horns at railroad crossings will pay off by the end of the month at three of the four crossings in Cumberland, the town manager says.

The town and the U.S. Department of Transportation’s Federal Railroad Administration are finalizing Cumberland’s “quiet zone” status for the crossings on Longwoods Road/Route 9, Greely Road and Tuttle Road.

“We’re very close to the finish line,” Town Manager William Shane said last week.

The effort began in 2012 after about 60 neighbors of the crossings complained to the Town Council about the horns.

One of those residents, Sally Brown, said last week that the “quiet zone issue is one of social equity.” She lives near the Greely Road crossing, with the track running behind her house.

“Other residents can take enjoyment of their property for granted, whether it be a cookout, sitting out on the deck reading a book, uninterrupted sleep at night. Those of us near the crossings don’t have that,” Brown said. “The town’s comprehensive plan has a goal of creating a more livable community, and they’re doing just that.”

With the town quiet zone, trains will not be permitted to sound their horns at the three crossings unless there is a safety issue, such as a person, car or animal on the track.

Trains will still blow their horns at this railroad crossing on Muirfield Road in Cumberland because it is technically on private property. File photo / The Forecaster

The fourth crossing in town, at Muirfield Road, is owned by a homeowner’s association and not allowed in the quiet zone because it is private, a spokesperson for the Federal Railroad Administration told the Northern Forecaster in March.

That crossing is near Falmouth by the Falmouth Country Club and to include it in the quiet zone, the association and the town would have to work with Falmouth to petition the Railroad Administration, Shane said.

A spokesman for the homeowners association could not be reached for comment before the Northern Forecaster’s print deadline.

About a dozen freight and passenger trains pass through Cumberland each day, Shane said, double the number even a decade ago.

When the horn issue first came up in 2012, Shane, the Cumberland fire chief and the police chief were not in favor of the quiet zone, but after three public hearings with compelling testimony from residents, the Town Council voted unanimously to pursue the matter.

“Before the testimony, there was a divided feeling among the council,” Councilor Michael Edes said. “The ones opposed to it had a feeling of ‘you moved into the neighborhood, you knew what you were getting into.’ The testimonies by the numerous neighborhoods convinced us all that while you knew what you were getting into 20 years ago, you didn’t expect to go from two (train) trips a day to 12. That’s quite a difference.”

In addition, Edes said, the railroad has significantly cut back the trees and brush along the tracks throughout the years to provide better access. A number of residents, including Brown, who originally had a decent buffer zone between their home and the tracks years ago, no longer do.

Shane said the town has received some negative public feedback about the approximately $270,000 it spent to update and improve the crossings to meet the criteria for the no-horn zones. Edes said because the town anticipated the expense, it had saved for it for several years.

The Railroad Administration made site visits in September and identified remaining needs. The town last week submitted its updated improvements, and town officials are confident they will be approved. Once approved, the town will notify the railroad that it has 21 days to cease horn blaring.

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