The San Timoteo Canyon residents’ request for a city-funded quiet zone where the railroad tracks cross Alessandro Boulevard should be denied.
Current federal law requires trains to blow their horns when approaching a street crossing that doesn’t meet certain safety standards, mainly having to do with automatic crossing barriers, flashing lights, traffic lane control and signage.
Alessandro Road crosses the tracks just south of San Timoteo Creek near the pricey Sunset Hills housing development. Nearby residents say the train horns are driving them crazy and they want the city of Redlands to pay for the necessary upgrade, which would include signage, a lane barrier and new striping. The road is already slated to be re-striped at the city’s expense when the street is re-paved as part of the PARIS program.
Advocates for having the city pay for the Quiet Zone admit that when they bought their homes they were well aware that trains frequently pass by and blow their horns. But they argue that the number of passing trains has increased dramatically over the past decade, due to the expansion of the Port of Los Angeles and the need to reduce air pollution by transferring freight from trucks to trains.
We visited the area to see how frequently the train horns blow -- separately, on different days of the week and at different times of day. During one 40-minute linger, one train went by, giving a single whistle on approach; during another visit, two and a half early afternoon hours passed with no rail activity at all.
The argument that the horns are startling and disruptive to people using the San Timoteo Wildlife Sanctuary’s trail and amphitheater is compelling. We see multiple benefits to Redlands’ offering that quality recreational space. And we agree that a nature sanctuary should be peaceful and quiet.
But we read in the Redlands Daily Facts that the residents are opposing parking accommodations at the trailhead, so the idea that the residents care about the hikers’, bird watchers’ and cyclists’ peace is a hard sell. They can't have it both ways. They can't argue for a quiet zone to protect the canyon for visitors as well as themselves but simultaneously oppose a parking lot for the safety of the visitors.
If you remove the argument that the expenditure benefits not just the 155 houses in the vicinity but visitors as well, then you are left to determine whether devoting limited financial resources toward the comfort of so few is legitimate as a high-budget priority for the council.
Regardless of the upfront cost of the project, there will be long-term maintenance expenses to consider.
If there’s money available, it’s better spent on a whole-community project -- which improvements downtown or to the Community Center, or in infrastructure on the north side of town would be.
The owners in the canyon will tell you they pay more per average Redlander in property taxes, but the part of that money that goes to the city (about 33 percent) pays for fire, police, park, school, street, library and other services that benefit them and all of us.
Flip the perspective: Would anyone argue that those who have low-value homes don’t deserve all the city services?
It’s understandable that these residents who bought their homes when there was significantly less rail traffic abutting them are frustrated. That’s a sympathetic position. The project is not objectionable. But the funding must not come from the city.
If a third fast-speed track is added in the near future to reduce truck traffic from existing Inland Empire roads, then the residents will likely be able to get the Quiet Zone funded and provided by the capital project funding without needing to redirect funds from city's budget.
The city should not spend money on this project, unless there is no shortage of resources and unless funds would not have to be redirected from some other project, which is not likely to be the case for the forseeable future.
Meet the Editorial Board