(HELENA) You’ll hear fewer train horns in Helena by the end of the year, as leaders officially make the city a railroad quiet zone.

City leaders sent out a required legal notice this week to the Federal Railroad Administration, the Montana Department of Transportation and Montana Rail Link. That triggers a 21-day waiting period ending Dec. 19, after which the zone will be fully implemented.

“The people that want the quiet zone have been waiting a long time for it, so they’re very happy that it’s actually going to be into effect here pretty quickly,” said city engineer Ryan Leland.

Federal rules require train engineers to sound their horns every time they cross a public road. In a quiet zone, that requirement isn’t applied.

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The Helena City Commission approved creating a quiet zone last year, in response to residents’ complaints about noise. To make it a reality, the city spent around $600,000 on safety improvements at railroad crossings at Benton Avenue, Joslyn Street, Montana Avenue and Carter Drive. That included raised curbs and medians, to prevent drivers from going around the automatic crossing gates.

Leland said the city’s work at these crossings is finished, but Montana Rail Link will make some final improvements in the spring. MRL intends to add concrete where sidewalks cross the tracks. Leland says they have put down boards at the crossings as a temporary solution.

Even after the quiet zone is implemented, people in Helena shouldn’t expect total silence from the passing trains. Railroad engineers will still be allowed to sound their horns if they believe there’s a safety issue.

“It’ll be a quieter zone,” said Leland.

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