San Diego Quiet Zone
                           Media Coverage

Developer might pay for train quiet zone


May 19, 2007

Encinitas residents may get a break from train horns if the city pairs up with the developer of a downtown condominium-retail complex to silence the blasts.

John DeWald, developer of Pacific Station, said he was considering paying for more safety equipment at the E Street rail crossing near his development to eliminate the need for train horns.

He is the first developer in North County to offer to pay for a so-called quiet zone, said Jerome Stocks, the Encinitas councilman who is chairman of the North County Transit District board of directors, which owns the tracks.

Quiet zones are federally approved crossings that have additional safety features so train engineers are not required to give warning blasts before approaching – though they retain the option.

Cities along the rail line have been considering quiet zones to placate residents who say the horns play havoc with their sleep and sanity. So far, no city in the county has established a quiet zone.

The city of San Diego may be the closest to navigating the costs and federal requirements. It expects to install 13 quiet zone crossings near downtown by September.

In Encinitas, Pacific Station, which is expected to break ground in six to eight months, will include 47 condos and roughly 51,600 square feet of retail, office and restaurant space at 687 S. Coast Highway 101.

DeWald's offer to pay for a quiet zone would be ineffective unless the city helps him meet federal standards.

Quiet zones must be at least one-half mile long. But the E Street crossing is only 100 yards south of the D Street rail crossing. To make an E Street quiet zone possible, there must be one at D Street as well, Stocks said. The city would need to consider footing the bill for that crossing, and Stocks said he planned to ask the City Council to consider the issue.

“We have people from various parts of the city who want quiet zones, but no one wants to pay for them,” Stocks said. “This is a very refreshing development.”

DeWald said he needed to know the price tag before making a decision. The expense varies depending on existing safety equipment, the way the crossing was built and its history of accidents, Federal Railroad Administration spokesman Warren Flatau said. Stocks said hehoped the cost in Encinitas would fall between $250,000 and $750,000.

Cities that wish to establish quiet zones must first assess the risk of accidents at those crossings.

The D and E streets crossings have had accidents, according to Federal Railroad Administration records.

The D Street crossing had five accidents between 1978 to 2005, one of which involved a pedestrian injured while stopped on the crossing. Others involved cars stopped or stalled on the crossing. No motorists were injured because everyone got out of the cars before the trains hit.

At the E Street crossing, four accidents occurred between 1975 and 2003. A pedestrian on the tracks was killed. One motorist driving over the crossing was injured and the other two motorists escaped injury by abandoning their cars.

Safety measures that qualify a crossing as a quiet zone include:

Quadruple gates across the road.

Fiberglass medians that separate traffic lanes to prevent motorists from driving around lowered gates.

Cameras to catch violators.

The conversion of two-way roads to one-way.

Most cities along the rail line – except Solana Beach, which has no crossings – have discussed establishing quiet zones.

Oceanside is considering assessing property owners to raise the $7 million to $9 million needed to establish quiet zones at five crossings.


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