Downtown San Diego residents thought they were within
sight of their final stop on the multiyear journey to
establish a horn-free “quiet zone” along downtown's
The $20.6 million program got what appeared to be the
final “all aboard” last September when the City Council
authorized going out to bid.
But nearly a year later, train horns still keep
downtowners awake. No work has begun on the project,
which would lessen the need for horns by installing
gates, median barriers and other safety measures.
The last problem appears to be a dispute between two
public agencies – San Diego's downtown redevelopment
agency and the North County Transit District, which
operates Coaster trains.
At issue is $2 million worth of work. It might not
seem like much, as the project has already grown from
the 2005 estimate of $3.5 million. But with the state
government claiming millions in redevelopment dollars
from cities to close its budget gap, San Diego's Centre
City Development Corp. seems ready to fight.
“They see the CCDC ATM machine at the door, and it's
an opportunity to have us pay for improvements,” said
Fred Maas, chairman of the nonprofit city agency that
guides downtown redevelopment.
“We don't have $2 million to spare,” said Councilman
Kevin Faulconer, who has championed the quiet zone
project and worked to move it forward for his district.
The North County Transit District says the only goal
is safety. The disputed work wouldn't need to be done if
the rail lines were not being disturbed for the project,
said Tom Kelleher, district spokesman.
“We are not trying to get CCDC to pay for
improvements that we would not otherwise make,” Kelleher
said. “These are not things we would normally need to
The dispute is over whether various pieces of
equipment and railroad infrastructure can be reused or
must be replaced after quiet zone construction. The CCDC
and the North County district differ over these
The two sides are set to negotiate at an Aug. 13
meeting. If there's agreement, construction could begin
in January, CCDC officials said. The work would take a
year and be paid for by downtown redevelopment tax
If that happens, Pat McArron might finally get a good
night's rest. The Marina district condo owner moderates
the Web site quietzonesd.info, which gets about 30
complaints a month about nighttime train whistles. He
and other downtown residents say they are getting
restless about the slow progress.
“What's new is the frustration at how long it's
taken,” said McArron, one of several interested parties
who attended a project meeting called by Faulconer
“It's so bureaucratic, we're starting to lose faith
it's even going to happen.”
The quiet zone has required San Diego officials to
get agreement from Amtrak, Burlington Northern Santa Fe
Railway, the Metropolitan Transit System, the San Diego
Trolley and the San Diego and Imperial Valley Railroad,
in addition to the Coaster agency.
It's not just residents – who, according to critics
of the project, should expect urban noise including
trains. Officials at the downtown Omni Hotel and
Marriott Hotel & Marina said train noise is the No. 1
Downtown San Diego's quiet zone, set into motion by a
2005 federal ruling allowing such a project, would cover
13 railroad crossings between Laurel Street and Park
San Diego's project is believed to be one of the most
ambitious in the country. Del Mar, Carlsbad and
Oceanside are also looking at the possibility, but
funding is a problem.
“Our goal is to ensure that it's safe, No. 1,
obviously,” Faulconer said yesterday. “But I don't want
hang-ups on turf warfare to slow this project down.”
In the Union-Tribune on Page B1