Mayor Nan Johnston and the city aldermen of Parkville seem to be of one mind in pushing through a quiet zone for the city (silencing the train whistles through downtown). According to their 2020 budget, this is one of their top strategies for “promoting downtown redevelopment and vibrancy.”
On May 5, they held a non-public work session to discuss the next steps they wanted to take to achieve their goal. The last time the body addressed this issue in great detail was 2013 in conjunction with their Parkville Downtown Master Plan. At that time, a quiet zone would have cost the city around a million dollars, not easily managed.
Now, a more affordable option has come to their attention thanks to examples set in Johnson County. They want to investigate the installation of wayside horns at downtown railroad crossings to replace whistles actually blown by trains.
Merriam and Lenexa have these horns which are basically muffled canned horn noise coming from speakers on polls at crossings. They sound when trains approach. The mayor and aldermen would like you to believe that this idea is popular with residents and businesses. I want to make sure they know that not everyone thinks their wayside horns are a good idea. I also want to make sure that residents of Parkville are aware of the city’s plans.
To me, the sound of the trains is as much a part of Parkville as the river or the university. I will do everything in my power to preserve the whistles. The trains and their whistles are tied to the history, character, and charm of this community. They draw visitors here. People don’t come to hear wayside horns. They want to hear train whistles coming from the trains as they rumble down the tracks. I can’t see a wayside horn sparking wide eyed wonderment from a child the way a whistling train would. It is quite possible that getting rid of the whistles will reduce interest in the city, the exact opposite of what the city is trying to achieve.
Wayside horns would still cost Parkville hundreds of thousands of dollars. Where is the money going to come from? The middle of a pandemic and economic decline is not the time to be spending money unnecessarily. The whistles as they are cost nothing to ensure the safety of taxpayers.
It seems like there is a push to sanitize our towns into a one size fits all package, wrapping them in a bubble of sameness. Just because this is accepted in Johnson County, does not mean it needs to be embraced in Platte County.
Residents of Parkville will have an opportunity to express their feelings on this issue at future board of aldermen meetings. I have been assured by the mayor that no votes will be taken on this until the public has had a chance to be heard. This will have to wait until citizens can actually come to meetings at City Hall, which they can’t do at the present time due to COVID-19.
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If you agree that the train whistles in Parkville need to be preserved, you can sign my petition, “Save Parkville MO Train Whistles!” on gopetition.com gopetition.com/petitions/save-parkville-mo-train-whistles.html.