Shortly after the Apex Town Council said railroad company CSX was being a bad neighbor, CSX sent the town a letter promising to improve.
“I have verified with our operating team, as well as health and environmental systems, that all units in Apex are equipped with APUs, and those units are working properly,” John Dillard, director of state government affairs for CSX, wrote Apex leaders Dec. 18.
APUs, or auxiliary power units, allow the large diesel engines on trains to be shut down while keeping the engine warm.
The correspondence came following a series of resident complaints about the noise caused by idling trains in downtown, prompting the Town Council to approve a resolution asking CSX to follow the town’s noise ordinances.
Diesels have to remain above 35 degrees, and town officials have said engines at Apex’s downtown train station often are left idling noisily overnight and during the day – even when the temperature is above 35 degrees. The CSX train station, located along Center Street between Salem and Elm streets, is wedged in between the historic downtown district and a historic neighborhood.
“The presence of these (auxiliary power) units as well as additional focus on implementing proper procedures should result in a decrease in idling,” Dillard wrote.
But Apex Mayor Bill Sutton said despite these assurances, he’s not aware of any actual changes.
“We haven’t noticed anything yet,” he said Wednesday, nearly a month after Dillard’s letter was addressed. “Not a bit.”
Dillard wrote that Apex crews have the proper technology to reduce or stop idling altogether and that they “are prepared and equipped to use it effectively.”
“Well, what are they saving them for?” Sutton asked in reference to the APUs. “Use them, use them.”
Dillard could not be reached for comment last week.
CSX runs 170,000 train cars annually on the 1,100 miles of tracks it owns in North Carolina, according to the Railroad Association of North Carolina.
Sutton said he has been speaking with the town’s lawyer to draft new rules setting up quiet zones near the train station that would offer the town some way to fine or otherwise punish noisy entities, including CSX.
“I think it’s gone on long enough,” he said. “Everybody’s tried to deal with them on this issue, but so far nothing’s happened.”
Both homeowners and business owners complain about the noise and diesel fumes each winter, council member Scott Lassitter said last month.
In the resolution sent to CSX, the town said, “The CSX Corporation’s winter operational policies at their Apex, North Carolina, facility represent a technologically outdated, environmentally unconscious, and generally wasteful business practice causing unnecessary stress to the very citizens this Council is elected to represent.”
It was sent to the federal agencies that regulate railroads as well as the legislators who represent Apex. Dillard’s letter on behalf of CSX also was sent to local legislators and nearby residents.
“We have also responded to inquiries from the Federal Railroad Administration regarding this issue and our operating practices in Apex,” Dillard wrote.
Additionally, he said, the company will “do our best” to cut down on noisy track-switching at the rail line between the Villages of Apex and Peak United Methodist Church, where one track splits into two.
“We have moved the majority of our switching out of town,” Dillard wrote.