Train horns a necessary disruption,
rail official tells downtown residents
By David E. Graham
UNION-TRIBUNE STAFF WRITER
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
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
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
Graham: (619) 542-4575;