Lenexa approves final steps for installation of wayside horns in Old Town

With development booming at City Center, some city leaders are hoping to find ways to revitalize Old Town.

Contracts with the city of Lenexa are approved to install wayside horns along the train tracks through Old Town — and now, the city must play the waiting game.

Lenexa city leaders on Tuesday approved agreements with the BNSF Railway Company and CTC Inc., the two companies involved with installing wayside horns. The wayside horns would be installed at two railroad crossings: Noland and Pflumm roads.

Homes and businesses in the area can experience up to 90 decibels of sound from the train horns passing through, up to several blocks away from the train tracks. Once the wayside horns are installed, the sound will be directed along the roadways near the railroad crossings and “greatly” reduce noise in the surrounding neighborhoods, according to city documents.

Steve Schooley, transportation manager for the city, said the primary unknown now is when. The two companies must make preparations of their own, and some site work must be completed before they install the wayside horns.

“I’m hopeful that it will be soon, but I don’t have a date or a time that I can tell you when those will be installed,” Schooley said.

Nonetheless, city leaders expressed relief and enthusiasm for taking this next step. Residents made frequent inquiries about the blasts of the train horns when the trains pass through Old Town, especially in the summertime when windows are open.

Here is a depiction of the noise reduction from the wayside horns, compared with the noise from the train horns:

City staff said the wayside horns project has been on hiatus for about two years while the two companies worked through the process.

“It’s been a long time coming, but we’re getting closer,” said Mayor Michael Boehm.

The city has agreed to pay $68,450 to BNSF and $232,232 to CTC for installation of wayside horns at both crossings. Lenexa in summer 2018 had allocated $350,000 to the project.

Schooley noted that installation of devices along the tracks — which would then allow the trains to silence their horns — would have cost up to $1 million per crossing.

Councilmember Bill Nicks noted that, while the wayside horns are a step forward, the railroad has been an integral part of Lenexa’s history that he wished to commemorate. Notably, these agreements were approved on the 188th birthday of Octave Chanute, a civil engineer who platted the city of Lenexa. Nicks plays the role of Chanute in historical reenactments.

The Lenexa city council unanimously approved the agreements. There was no public comment, although several councilmembers shared their support for the project.

“I’m thankful for the trains, but I’m also thankful for the wayside horns,” said Councilmember Mandy Stuke.