San Diego Quiet Zone
                           Media Coverage
The San Diego Union-Tribune

Agencies work toward silencing train horns through San Diego


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 horns.

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 the crossings.

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 quiet zone.

Alderman said some downtown crossings would require multiple improvements.

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.

Michael Burge: (760) 476-8230;



Last modified:  Sunday, December 13, 2009 07:46 PM Copyright 2006