San Diego Quiet Zone
                           Media Coverage
Train horns a necessary disruption, rail official tells downtown residents


July 18, 2006

Noise from train horns downtown has indeed increased in recent weeks, a rail spokeswoman said at a public meeting last night, because officials are enforcing federal safety regulations that require it.

“It has gotten louder,” said Lena Kent of Burlington Northern Santa Fe Railway Co., and she apologized for the disturbance that many residents say wakes them at night.

San Diego Councilman Kevin Faulconer called for the meeting so residents could air their complaints and question city and rail officials. The gathering at the San Diego Community Concourse attracted about 250 people.

Downtown residents said last night that some train engineers seem to meet the federal requirements for horn blowing with shorter pulses while some seem to go on and on.

Federal regulations adopted last year require engineers to blow the horn no fewer than 15 seconds before they enter a crossing – two long bursts and a short one, then a last long blast until the train enters the crossing. With 13 crossings from Little Italy around the southern edge of downtown, the additional noise has stirred residents to seek some relief.

A groan arose through the crowd when LeeAnn Dickson, a regional manager for the Federal Railroad Administration, said the horn blowing is for safety and that engineers are “not out there to wake you up.”

Faulconer told the gathering that he wants to hasten development of a Quiet Zone so train engineers would not be required to use the horns.

To have a Quiet Zone, improvements would be required at each crossing, such as gates that block all traffic lanes and median barriers or measures to protect motorists and pedestrians from trains.

Faulconer sought to get representatives of parties involved with the line, including Burlington Northern and local rail passenger services, to commit to reaching the legal, construction and maintenance agreements to allow the safety improvements to proceed.

John Anderson, a project director at the Centre City Development Corp., the city's downtown redevelopment arm, said he hopes a significant portion of that work can be done next month.

If so, a Quiet Zone could be ready by the fall of next year, Anderson said. The cost is estimated between $6 million and $8 million.

David Graham: (619) 542-4575;



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