South Tampa, FL - An effort is under way to get South Tampa residents organized.
Their target? Loud train horns which have recently become more common during the overnight hours when people are trying to sleep.
Now the sleep-deprived residents are starting to make some noise of their own, because they say it's become a health issue. and also an economic issue because it can affect property values.
"It is so loud," says Stephen Schroeck.
Schroeck lives and works in South Tampa. But lately he's been having trouble sleeping at night.
"It's startling. It shakes the house. I don't even mind the rumbling of the train now, it's the horn that bothers me," says Schroeck, whose town home sits next to the CSX tracks south of Gandy Boulevard.
The bone-shaking blast can be heard from inside Schroeck's own window. Often it sounds for a full 20 seconds, blaring as CSX freight trains make their way through the area at one, two - even three o'clock in the morning.
Schroeck is now part of growing number of residents complaining about the noise.
Tampa City councilman Harry Cohen, who lives in South Tampa and represents the district, says "a steady stream of people" started calling and emailing his office when CSX shifted its schedule from daytime to night over the past several months.
But Cohen admits there's little the city can do about it. The rails were here before most residents. Federal laws dictate how long and how loud those warning horns have to be sounded.
They could ask CSX to change its schedule back to daytime, but he doubts can force them to budge.
"I do want to warn people against getting expectations too high about what can be done without a change in the federal law," said Cohen.
CSX spokesman Gary Sease says the schedule switch to overnight was made to accommodate the railway's customers, who prefer the early hours. Changing that, he says, would add expense for them, the railway and ultimately you.
"While you might say CSX should just bear those costs, it actually would result in the increased cost of shipping that ultimately would be borne by consumers," said Sease.
He says CSX sympathizes with residents and would be willing to work toward a solution.
Schroeck, hoping there's strength in numbers, has started a Facebook page called "Help Tampa Sleep."
He's also asked the city to look into designating quiet zones, as others have. But Cohen warns that re-tooling the crossings to create quiet zones can cost hundreds of thousands of dollars that the city just doesn't have right now.
How loud are these train horns? They're required to sound between 100 and 100 decibels. That's the equivalent of a jet plane taking off, a jack hammer, or a garbage truck.
At 110 decibels, it's like a steel mill, a riveting machine or rock concert taking place outside your window.
Cohen says his office is planning to meet with CSX officials in the near future. He hopes they can make incremental progress toward minimizing the overnight train horns.