work toward silencing train horns through San Diego
By Michael Burge
January 6, 2006
OCEANSIDE – San Diego's downtown
redevelopment agency is making headway with the North County Transit
District to silence train horns in San Diego's growing urban core.
Mitch Alderman, a transit district rail engineer, told the board's
planning committee that the Centre City Development Corp., San Diego's
downtown redevelopment agency, has asked the district to design safety
improvements at crossings so train engineers do not have to blare their
The development agency has been
pushing for a "quiet zone" – where train engineers do not have to blow
horns – between Laurel Street and Fifth Avenue since the late 1990s.
Quiet zones became possible in June after the Federal Railroad
Administration adopted regulations defining when train engineers must blow
their horns and the criteria for silencing them.
The new federal regulations require engineers to sound their horns 20
to 30 seconds before each crossing and include a formula that cities must
fulfill to establish quiet zones at crossings
Alderman told the planning committee that downtown residents suffer
through continual horn blasting because the crossings, about a dozen of
them, are close together.
The North County Transit District owns the tracks between Orange County
and about E Street in San Diego, and between Oceanside and Escondido.
To silence the horns, cities might have to erect gates that block all
traffic lanes, construct median barriers or undertake other measures to
protect motorists and pedestrians from trains, depending on conditions at
Theresa McAteer, an attorney representing CCDC, said yesterday that the
redevelopment agency is working with the transit district, Burlington
Northern Santa Fe, which owns the tracks south of E Street, and the
Metropolitan Transit System, which operates the trolley, to implement the
Alderman said some downtown crossings would require multiple
According to a policy that the transit district is drafting, the
district would design the improvements, and any public agency that wants
the quiet zone would pay for them. The design cost for the downtown
crossings would be $800,000, according to a transit district staff report.
The transit district board had discussed adopting a policy on quiet
zones in September but halted over the question of liability. The
district's staff had proposed having local cities bear the brunt of
liability in accidents at reconfigured crossings, but the board members –
who consist of eight members of city councils and a county supervisor –
balked at that proposal.
The staff has not returned to the board with a rewritten policy, and
Alderman said CCDC was eager to move forward with the quiet zone while the
policy was being drafted.
Burge: (760) 476-8230;