Stop "Rail Squeal" in Austin's Seaholm District
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- This is not a complaint about regular train noise. This is about a specific, sustained, high-pitched ring called "rail squeal" that is the result of poorly maintained tracks and cars taking on a curve in the railroad. Union Pacific can do more to fix this problem, but they aren't.
- The current decibel level of the rail squeal in the Seaholm District has, at times, exceeded 100 decibels and into the levels considered traumatic to human hearing—and it's happening sometimes multiple times a day and multiple times a night. This is hurting our local businesses, deterring people from enjoying our outdoor spaces, and making it difficult for people to sleep.
- There are public park areas (Seaholm greenspaces, Electric Drive, Pfluger Pedestrian bridge and portions of the Lady Bird Lake trail), the new Austin Public Library, restaurants (Boiler 9, True Food, Trader Joe's, Austin's Habibi, Super Burrito, Whole Foods, Trifecta, Irene's), multiple small businesses (salons, boutiques, dentists, real estate businesses, attorneys, medical offices), large companies (Umbel, Under Armour, Athena Health), and homes (Spring Condominium, Seaholm Residences, 360 Condominiums, The Independent, Austin Proper Hotel and Residences, Fifth & West, Northshore, The Bowie, Gables West Avenue, Gables Park Plaza, Gables Park Tower, Amli 300), that currently have people hurting from this problem.
- We have rules in place that prevent trains from honking their horns in our neighborhood during sleeping hours, but rail squeal can be louder than train horns and can last longer -- up to several minutes. All during sleeping hours.
- One solution is to install a CL-E1 system that uses composite heavy fluid compounds to quell the noise. It's a relatively new technology and is currently being used in Europe. A company called ELPA has offered to install the device for a free trial in the Seaholm District, but Union Pacific declined the offer, saying the device was for commuter tracks and not cargo tracks. This is incorrect, as ELPA has pointed out.
- Another solution is for Union Pacific to impose better maintenance/weight/speed requirements for the cars that travel their tracks and also to a implement a regular schedule of track maintenance at the Seaholm curve that specifically addresses rail squeal. Currently, they do not have maintenance measures in place specifically for rail squeal. They have lubrication measures for other purposes that sometimes help mitigate rail squeal, and other times seem to make it worse.
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