Last year, as part of a River Arts District development agreement, the railroad crossing at Lyman Street was upgraded so the trains would not have to sound their horns at night. When will the same be done for the Biltmore Avenue crossing in Biltmore Village?
The Biltmore Avenue crossing, like the Lyman Street crossing, lies at the end of Norfolk Southern’s railroad yard, so instead of just an occasional passing train, rail yard engines are frequently crossing back and forth, shuttling freight cars from track to track. In order to avoid blocking the intersection during heavy, daytime Biltmore traffic, Norfolk Southern does most of its shuttling late at night, when the street is empty. But engines still must sound their horns each time they cross the road.
These horns are not the nostalgic whistles of the steam era. Modern diesel locomotive air horns make commercial truckers’ horns sound like “little Nash Ramblers” by comparison. For most people living within half a mile of the Biltmore crossing, especially in older homes without triple-pane glass and air conditioning, sleeping through the horn blasts is not an option. And they’re blasting often, all night long, including weekends and holidays. I’ve counted as many as 22 horn blasts during a single half-hour period between 3:30 and 4 a.m. Some engineers seem to try to be considerate by just briefly tapping their horns, while others must want to ensure that everyone is awakened.
The upgrades made to the Lyman Street crossing suggest that all that is needed to silence the trains at night are two additional barrier arms to completely block the road so that impatient fools and drunks can’t weave their cars or other vehicles between the existing barriers into a train’s path. These are trains that are only creeping slowly along. There’s already a pedestrian fence blocking the tracks through Biltmore Village. Is it asking too much to finish the job so people can open their windows and sleep through the night?
— Paul Huisking