With the stroke of a pen, Gov. Mike Lowry Thursday brought peace and quiet a step closer to the Spokane Valley.
At an afternoon ceremony, Lowry signed House Bill 1130, which will finally give Spokane County the power to forbid the blowing of train whistles at gated railroad crossings.
Before the county can mute the trains, the crossings will have to be brought up to federal safety standards. That includes erecting barriers to prevent cars from evading railroad arms and driving onto the tracks.
“Hopefully it will make things a little easier for us,” said Tony Lazanis, owner of the Eastgate Motel at Trent and University, who was in Olympia Thursday for the bill-signing ceremony.
Lazanis has been coming to Olympia several times a year, seeking relief for Valley businesses and homeowners who have long suffered from the blaring train whistles.
“This is a big-time noise,” Lazanis said.
Although supporters weren’t expecting a veto, the bill’s prime sponsor, Rep. Larry Crouse, R-Spokane, wasn’t breathing easy until Lowry put pen to paper.
“You expect that they’re going to sign it, but you can never count on it,” Crouse said.
With this issue, his caution was probably justified.
For the past four years, Spokane lawmakers have tried to push similar bills through the Legislature, but all died in committee.
Earlier this session, the bill narrowly escaped death when it was voted down on the House floor. Crouse and other supporters then rushed to draft amendments to win the key support of the railroad companies, whose lobbying efforts had killed all the earlier efforts.
The new law goes into effect in 90 days.