TRAX trains make as much noise in Draper as anywhere else. But the Utah Transit Authority is now working to quiet them in the southern Salt Lake County community because they are louder than promised in environmental studies.
Neighbors started complaining about the noise as soon as the new $147 million Draper extension opened last August. After some sound measuring at nearby homes, UTA found that the trains indeed are louder than promised.
"It’s a quiet area. Some lots are an acre, and some are a half acre" bringing a serene farm-like feel to the suburban area, says Draper City Council member William Rappleye. "Some other places complain that TRAX trains are too quiet, and they sneak up on you. But here, the noise is noticeable."
People in Draper are unused to train noise.
"The Draper area previously only had rail traffic once a week on the corridor serving [the] Intermountain Farmers" plant — and that ended long ago, said Steve Meyer, UTA’s chief capital development officer.
"I also think we have some unique geography, and a hillside that can reflect sound," Rappleye said.
Meyer said UTA is committed to working to reduce noise levels to levels projected in the project’s environmental impact statement, and that is requiring some expensive work.
For example, Meyer said, approximately 2,000 feet of sound barrier was added to the 3.3 miles of barrier originally installed.Also, UTA went back and used caulking to close gaps between slats and posts in existing sound barriers.
As Rappleye said, "They found that any hole can let the sound pass through."
UTA also found that welded joints between rails — and some rails themselves — were not smooth enough, which caused extra noise as trains rolled over them.
"The rails were polished" with grinders, Meyer said.
In addition, the first train in each direction each morning is now reduced to 45 mph to tone down wheel noise, Meyer said.
UTA is also working to modify coverings for wheels on the trains traveling in the area.
"We will be fabricating skirts with a sound-absorbing lining to cover a portion of the wheels on the light rail cars," Meyer said.
All these steps should help muffle the noise to promised levels, although
Meyer notes that the current noise is not out of compliance with Federal Transit Administration rules.
So far, Rappleye says he feels most residents appreciate the efforts being made. "Some probably never wanted the train, and didn’t realize it would come when they bought their property. But things change, and it looks like they are trying to make things right," he said.
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