For almost 10 years, Wayne Metlitz has been seeking a solution to the middle-of-the-night train whistles that disturb the sleep of most Downtown dwellers. He might see some resolution within the year if the city can meet required upgrades at rail crossings to qualify for a quiet zone. Doing the work quickly is important because another federal mandate calls for engineers to sound a horn for 15 to 20 seconds at every crossing. Downtown San Diego has 13 crossings between Laurel Street and Park Boulevard. With establishment of a quiet zone, engineers will not have to sound the horn unless they perceive a dangerous situation.
A report on the status of a quiet zone Downtown will be given at a public workshop at 6 p.m March 3 in the Downtown Information Center, 225 Broadway, at the base of the NBC building next to Horton Plaza.
Metlitz will be there, although the train whistle doesn’t bother him as much as it did when he lived at the Harbor Club. Now living in Park Loft near Petco Park, he is out of the direct path. “I still hear them,” he says, “but it’s not as intrusive now.”
Another Downtown resident, Sandra Simmons, who has lived at The Brickyard since 1996, also will attend the meeting. She loves living Downtown, she says, “but it was two years before I could sleep through the night.” That still is not every night, but may depend upon having open windows or an overly enthusiastic engineer.
Also a sleep-deprived Downtown resident, Alan Hamrick has lived at Watermark for nearly four years. “I don’t hear the trolley anymore, but I do hear the freight trains. They seem awfully excessive,” he says, considering how slowly they are moving and how many residents are disturbed.
Almost as disturbing as the horn, Hamrick says, is the changing of rail cars and engines, which also keep intersections closed longer than usual. “The grinding of the metal during the changing of cars can be louder than the horns,” he says.
Most of the night noise should be eliminated if the quiet zone is approved, says Donna Alm, a CCDC v.p. The agency has contracted with an engineer to see what changes are needed at the 13 crossings before a quiet zone can be established.
“First we had to wait for the quiet zone to be approved by the Federal Railroad Administration,” Alm says. That happened and now the city will make necessary improvements and apply for a quiet zone. Among the probable requirements will be installation of safety gates on all four sides of the crossings and new pedestrian warnings, says Alm.
Those seeking the quiet zone are optimistic because the trains move slowly and have a good safety record in the city. They are encouraged by the involvement of Councilman Michael Zucchet, whose district includes Downtown, and his staff.
“I am confident that the City of San Diego, working with the Centre City Development Corp. and the Federal Railroad Administration, will implement quiet zones in the near future,” says Zucchet. “Approval of our quiet zone application will allow for the installation of safety measures as alternatives to the use of train horns at railroad crossings, ensuring continued safety and improving the quality of life for all Downtown residents.”