A Quiet Zone is a segment of a rail line containing one or several consecutive public highway-rail crossings in which locomotive horns are not routinely sounded.
(from the FRA website: https://www.fra.dot.gov/Page/P0889)
Under the Train Horn Rule (49 CFR Part 222), locomotive engineers must begin to sound train horns at least 15 seconds, and no more than 20 seconds, in advance of all public grade crossings.
If a train is traveling faster than 60 mph, engineers will not sound the horn until it is within ¼ mile of the crossing, even if the advance warning is less than 15 seconds.
There is a "good faith" exception for locations where engineers can’t precisely estimate their arrival at a crossing and begin to sound the horn no more than 25 seconds before arriving at the crossing.
Train horns must be sounded in a standardized pattern of 2 long, 1 short and 1 long blasts. The pattern must be repeated or prolonged until the lead locomotive or lead cab car occupies the grade crossing. The rule does not stipulate the durations of long and short blasts.
The maximum volume level for the train horn is 110 decibels which is a new requirement. The minimum sound level remains 96 decibels.
The final rule also provides an opportunity for localities nationwide to mitigate the effects of train horn noise by establishing “new quiet zones.” “No horn” restriction which may have existed prior to the establishment of the rule may be qualified to be “pre-rule quiet zones”. In a quiet zone, railroads have been directed to cease the routine sounding their horns when approaching public highway-rail grade crossings. Train horns may still be used in emergency situations or to comply with other Federal regulations or railroad operating rules. Localities desiring to establish a quiet zone are first required to mitigate the increased risk caused by the absence of a horn.
Learn how to create a Quiet Zone here. Additional resources on Quiet Zones can be found below.
Metrolink’s first priority is safety. As safety upgrades are made to crossings, Metrolink is in support of Quiet Zones. Metrolink will work with cities or communities interested in establishing Quiet Zones.
However, based on the federal rule referenced above Metrolink is required to blow horns at all crossings until Quiet Zones are established.
Metrolink has worked with its member agencies and communities in Orange County to create one of the longest Quiet Zones in the country, while in Riverside County one Quiet Zone has already been implemented with another expected in the coming months. Below is information about the many different groups that were involved in the projects, along with the costs, funding sources, and the timelines.
Orange County is home to the nation’s largest railway Quiet Zone, spanning 34 railroad crossings in six cities. As part of the effort to establish the Quiet Zone, safety enhancements were made to a total of 52 crossings in eight cities.
The project was completed in 2012, and the entire process took seven years and cost $85 million. The Orange County Transportation Authority (OCTA) covered most of the cost through taxpayer-funded Measure M. The remaining 12 percent of costs were contributed by the cities.
Costs ranged from $1.5 million to $2.5 million per crossing. Typical safety enhancements in program included: extended and widened center medians; improved sidewalks; improved highway approach geometry; four-quadrant pedestrian gates and flashers; exit gates; pre-signals; queue-cutter signals; vehicle traffic signal system interconnections with advanced preemption; and reconstructed and lengthened highway-rail grade crossing surfaces.
In some cases numerous, minor right–of-way acquisitions (less than 1,000 square feet) were also required.
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The Riverside Quiet Zone Projects are part of the City of Riverside’s efforts to mitigate the adverse noise impacts from the high volume of train traffic within the city. These Quiet Zones will help to reduce train horn noise by eliminating the need for locomotives to routinely sound their horns. Please note that train engineers will still be required to sound a horn if they see a hazard on or near the tracks (such as people, animals, vehicles, etc.).
The first City of Riverside Quiet Zone went into effect on Thursday, November 17, 2016 at 12:01 a.m. The $13 million project was planned in 2007, with work officially starting in 2011. It extends over 7 miles along the BNSF railway line between Mary Street and Buchanan Street (running parallel to the SR-91 Freeway). With 12 at-grade crossings, this stretch of tracks averages more than 100 trains per day (including those operated by BNSF, Metrolink and Amtrak).
The City of Riverside’s second Quiet Zone is comprised of four crossings between Mt. Vernon Avenue and Marlborough Avenue on Metrolink’s 91/Perris Valley Line extension, a segment that averages 15 trains per day. The City or Riverside is working with the Southern California Regional Rail Authority (SCRRA) to finalize arrangements for the implementation of this Quiet Zone, which is expected to launch in early 2017.
For more information about the Quiet Zones in the City of Riverside click here.
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