Noisy debate brewing over train whistles in Parkville

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PARKVILLE, Mo. — The familiar sounds of train whistles means different things to different people in this Northland suburb.

“To me it’s a beautiful sound. I’ve loved it since I was a little girl,” Elaine Kellerman said.

Kellerman started the online petition “Save Parkville Missouri Train Whistles.” It’s an attempt to blunt any discussion of alternatives to silence the train whistles in Parkville.

A Kansas City native, Kellerman recently moved back to the metro after living in New Hampshire. She said the small-town charm of Parkville’s trains is part of what convinced her to move there.

“They are intimately connected with the identity of Parkville,” Kellerman said. “When you talk about Parkville, you think about the river, yes, and Park University, yes, but you also think about the trains.”

Theresa Bentley strongly disagrees.

“It may be enjoyable three miles away, the nostalgia of the train sound, but it’s not good. It’s damaging people’s hearing,” Bentley said.

Bentley owns Bentley Guitars, not far from the tracks in downtown Parkville. She said it’s not so much that the trains interrupt music lessons. She argues it’s just dangerously loud.

“We just measured the train that just went by,” Bentley said. “Wall-protected, it was 110 decibels. That’s a damaging figure to your ear.”

No proposal is before city leaders just yet. But discussions have centered around alternatives like wayside horns, installed in Merriam, and a so-called ‘quiet train crossing,” which was implemented in Shawnee.

“I see 3-year-olds out here crying and their parents are holding them, and I say, ‘Please cover your child’s ears,'” Bentley said.

A public hearing on the issue isn’t on the city calendar just yet. But many locals believe when it reaches that stage, it will not be a quiet debate.

“They feel like this is necessary for developing the downtown area,” Kellerman said. “I think it might have the opposite effect. I think a lot of people come here to hear the trains.”

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