Trains traversing North Riverside, Riverside and Berwyn along the Canadian National tracks will be prevented from sounding their horns at nine grade crossings in those towns starting Thursday, Jan. 28.

On Friday, U.S. Rep. Daniel Lipinski (D-3rd) announced that the quiet zone had been approved by the Federal Railway Administration. Lipinski noted that it may take a week or so for train engineers to fully comply with quiet zone rules and also stated that train horns may still sound occasionally, since engineers can use discretion on blowing horns within a quiet zone.

“It’ll still happen if there are safety reasons,” said Lipinski, “for example if the engineer sees someone close to the tracks.”

Barrier medians have been built on Harlem Avenue south of 26th Street and on Cermak Road east of First Avenue. The medians were required by the federal government as part of the deal to create the quiet zone.

All three towns shared the cost of constructing the medians. The other crucial piece of the puzzle was the installation of “constant time” warning signals, a significant expense picked up by the railroad after years of negotiation.

Lipinski lent his legislative muscle to a local effort spearheaded by then-North Riverside Mayor Richard Scheck to make the quiet zone a reality. Local mayors, with Lipinski’s approval, lobbied Congress to approve the Canadian National’s purchase of the EJ&E Railroad in 2008.

That purchase faced stiff opposition from leaders in far northwest and west suburban Chicago, who feared that increased train traffic in their towns would affect quality of life there.

Inner-ring suburbs and the city of Chicago were not impressed, having trains on the Canadian National tracks snarling traffic for many a decade. They supported the railroad merger, which won approval in December 2008.

-Bob Uphues