Government & Politics

These Shawnee neighbors went to incredible lengths for peace and quiet

As part of a newly created train-horn quiet zone in western Shawnee, the crossing at 73rd Street and Martindale is now a public crossing with warning lights and a safety gate.
As part of a newly created train-horn quiet zone in western Shawnee, the crossing at 73rd Street and Martindale is now a public crossing with warning lights and a safety gate. Special to The Star

Nearly 1,000 train horn blasts every 24 hours, 365 days a year.

For years, those inescapable booms burdened the day-to-day lives of many western Shawnee residents and farmers living near the Martindale Road railway tracks.

Now, after 13 years of banding together and working with the city of Shawnee, the trains have gone silent. Locomotives passing along the 5900 to 7900 blocks of Martindale Road are no longer required to blow their horns at street crossings — the blaring whistles replaced with flashing red lights and gates to ensure safety.

But its lengths to which nearby residents went to make the quiet zone a reality that is the real story, because the road to silence — and a unique neighborhood friendship — hasn’t been an easy one.

“Thirteen years ago, this wasn’t something we thought we could do,” Council member Mickey Sandifer said. “Without the neighbors and landowners getting together, it wouldn’t have happened. This brought neighbors, landowners, and the city together.”

To implement the quiet-zone plan, one particular crossing proved problematic. It served as an access point for David Hoehn’s property, which he used to get farm equipment to all reaches of his acreage.

The solution required residents of the Brittany Ridge subdivision and other neighbors to come together and raise more than $40,000 of their own money to build a concrete bridge on Hoehn’s property.

That allowed the crossing to close and the stretch of tracks to become a horn-free section.

“It’s about quality of life,” Brittany Ridge resident Michael Konan said. “You can have friends over now. We can all sleep better. The livability of this area has been immensely improved. It’s also brought us together.”

It’s also why neighbors and landowners joined Shawnee Mayor Michelle Distler and other city council members to celebrate the silence. Distler also presented the neighborhood with a proclamation declaring December 30, 2017, as “Rails and Trails Day.”

“This is more than a neighborhood now,” Distler said. “They have become friends here. ... For 13 years, the residents worked with us. They came and said, ‘We have a problem and can we find a solution?’ When there were setbacks along the way, they kept the spirit alive.”

Especially against a backdrop of seeming divisiveness across the country, the achievement becomes even more remarkable.

“In a world of anger, these people came together and put down their differences for a peaceful solution,” Sandifer said.

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