NORMAL — Normal residents may be rid of many loud train whistles, especially overnight, yet this year.
Officials are optimistic the town will secure a "quiet zone" designation, meaning passenger and freight trains going through Normal would no longer need to lay on their horns while passing through town.
The designation wouldn't stop passenger trains resuming travel, including from Uptown Station, from needing to use their horns, but those trains don't run in the late night or early morning — and conductors would still use their whistles when they see hazards.
"People who live close to the rail line are anxious to see this happen. Certainly our two hotels in uptown will welcome this designation. Even some people who live blocks away are bothered by the train whistles," said City Manager Mark Peterson. "They're unnecessary, and they are disruptive."
Ending the whistles is possible thanks to new safety equipment installed along local rail lines for high-speed rail. Such trains are slated to run through Illinois up to 110 mph., though they won't hit that speed while passing through town.
Peterson said he's still unsure, however, when high-speed trains will start running through Normal regularly. The new train platform south of Uptown Station, built for trains coming through on a second rail line as part of high-speed rail, is done but not open, though some freight trains are now running on the second rail line.
The town also spent $26,000 on a vehicle to move passengers from the new platform to Uptown Station by the Broadway and Fell Avenue crossings, and officials are still working on a permanent walkway for passengers, likely to be an underpass that's still under study by a New York City consulting firm.
The Normal City Council will consider a new lease for Amtrak at Uptown Station and the south platform during its regular meeting at 7 p.m. Monday on the fourth floor at Uptown Station. Peterson said the deal will not significantly change the town's terms with Amtrak.
In other business, the council will:
• Hear an update on All About Normal, a program that lets the public take weekly classes to learn about town operations. The long-dormant effort was revived this fall.
• Meet for the first time since Shelleigh Birlingmair left her position as executive director of the uptown Children's Discovery Museum.
Peterson said officials hope to replace Birlingmair as soon as the end of the month. A job posting for the position ends Monday.