Both Falmouth and Cumberland have discussed a possible quiet zone implementation to come with the Downeaster’s new trains each day. Some residents have questioned how trains not blowing their whistles might affect safety for people who use the tracks recreationally.
The improvements to the rail line made for the Downeaster have changed the nature of train traffic in our communities. On the old track, freight trains travelled at speeds less than 20 mph, giving a false impression that people had time to avoid a train. The new, welded tracks allow trains to travel at speeds approaching 60 mph or faster.
A quiet zone means that trains don’t blow whistles at specific street intersections. Hunters walking along tracks two miles from an intersection likely would not hear that whistle two miles away even without a quiet zone. Furthermore, trains, even in a quiet zone, must whistle for all safety issues the engineers notice. If engineers see people along the tracks, they can and will blow the whistle. However, the trains now go so fast, whistles become irrelevant if a train cannot slow enough to avoid someone or to give someone time to move.
Our communities must rethink how we approach the trains. We cannot out-walk or out-race them any longer. No one should use tracks as recreational areas; it’s trespassing and illegal. Our communities have spent thousands of dollars to preserve and create recreational trails; let’s use those instead and leave the tracks to the trains.