The New Frontier in Merced


Watching the Merced City Council’s first meeting of the year in 2020, we were bemused by the humorless, lengthy and, frankly, silly discussion about “quiet zones” along the BNSF railroad line through the northern part of Central Merced. They already have an underpass on G Street. But now they want more. Railroads are so loud, you know, that they disturb the tranquility of urban life. Oh, chicken feathers!

My neighbors, who have lived in Merced for nearly 40 years, had two observations. When they walk they frequently pass a relatively new carwash on G Street not far from the same tracks and report that they can hear the noise the carwash makes for several blocks. Also, they’ve lived here long enough to remember when Castle Air Force Base was open and planes were flying over Merced day and night making such a racket that it stopped telephone conversations.

We live between the tracks and hear trains on both the BNSF and the Union Pacific tracks, but often the loudest and most persistent background noise from early morning until after dark is from the elevated Highway 99, full of trucks traveling to and from all the major cities in the San Joaquin Valley.

But, apparently unlike the people who spend their time being irritated by the noise of trains running on tracks that have been in place long before the irritated neighbors came to town, we still find better things to do with our lives.

If you want to improve something a little more important, quit spraying pesticides and herbicides all over your garden. Make a safe haven for bees, butterflies and hummingbirds. Keep a turtle and feed it snails. Adopt a feral cat or two and spay or neuter them.

And if the City Council serious and sensible, it ought to insist, even if it takes a lawsuit, that both railroad companies clean up the trash accumulated along their easements through Merced. It’s filthy and unhealthy and it belongs to the railroad companies. The City of Merced would become a leader among cities and towns across the nation if they fought for that.