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FOCUS: ORANGE COUNTY COMMUNITY NEWS

Tracked Housing

Neighbors Want a Wall Between Them and Noise, Danger From Nearby Trains

April 30, 1998|DEBRA CANO | SPECIAL TO THE TIMES

Day and night, Karen Winkle and her neighbors in east Anaheim hear the clatter and whistles from trains passing by.

Since a second track was built closer to their homes in 1994, train traffic has tripled. And plans for a third track may be on the horizon.

"People duck under our tables because they think it's an earthquake," said Winkle, a 10-year resident of Northfield Avenue.

Homeowners say they endure the noise and vibration but fear that a train will derail or spill hazardous chemicals.

And they worry about children crossing tracks and the health effects from diesel fumes.

"We knew the original track was there, but we weren't prepared or told about the second track," said Kathy Wright, 56, who moved to Friendly Village Mobile Home Park 25 years ago. "It was the second track that caused our lives to be totally miserable."

After nearly five years of lobbying local elected officials, residents finally might be getting a sound wall. But the question for them is when.

Rep. Jay C. Kim, (R-Diamond Bar), whose district includes the neighborhood, has been working with residents in recent years and has promised to try to secure $5 million in federal money to build a sound wall.

The wall would stretch about three miles between Imperial Highway and Weir Canyon Road/Yorba Linda Boulevard.

The funding is part of a pending federal transportation bill, expected to be approved in late May. Kim is seeking a total of $14.5 million to build the sound wall and an Imperial Highway railroad overpass.

The Orange County Transportation Authority also is trying to get state money for the overpass.

Burlington Northern Santa Fe Railway Co. officials have said they would donate the right-of-way for the wall.

Between 50 and 60 trains a day travel on the two sets of tracks, past the mobile home park and rows of tract homes.

In some areas, the newer tracks were laid on a steep slope high above residential properties and are within 25 feet of backyards and homes.

"We need [to get] some protection between us and the train and not wait until a disaster happens," Wright said.

Construction of the sound wall probably won't start for at least three years, officials said.

Many residents who attended a recent community meeting, presented by Kim's aides, left frustrated and disappointed that no date had been set.

"I think we're still going to be waiting a long time," said Northfield resident Tammy Swails, 36.

Winkle, 37, who helped coordinate a petition drive several years ago to get the wall, said she believes the wall will be built eventually, "but I think OCTA and the city will drag their feet. And that concerns me because of the safety issues."

Some residents, like Wright, remain optimistic.

"All I want is to be able to enjoy my home again."

(BEGIN TEXT OF INFOBOX / INFOGRAPHIC)

NEIGHBORHOODS / Anaheim-Burlington Northern Santa Fe Neighborhood

Bounded by: Esperanza Road on the north, La Palma Avenue on the south, Weir Canyon Road/Yorba Linda Boulevard on the east and Imperial Highway on the west.

Population: About 350 homes in Friendly Village Mobile Home Park and about 745 single-family homes; approximately 4,000 residents living in neighborhoods alongside the railroad tracks

Hot topic: Getting a sound wall to provide protection and safety from heavy train traffic

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