Council approves downtown 'quiet
zone' for trains
Tuesday, June 22, 2010 at 4:49 p.m.
Let there be silence!
Frequent horn blasts from trains as they pass through
downtown San Diego will stop under a $20.9 million plan
approved Tuesday by the City Council.
The council voted 6-2 to add safety improvements at
13 downtown rail crossings and create what supporters
say is the largest “quiet zone” in the country. In the
zone, train engineers will have to lay off their horns,
a change long sought by downtown residents, hotel
managers and tourists.
Council members Carl DeMaio and Donna Frye voted
against the plan because their colleagues refused to
include a promise to find alternative ways to pay for
the expected $60,000 in annual maintenance and
inspection costs. As it stands, the city will have to
cover that future expense despite already having a
projected budget deficit of $72 million.
Loud train horns, which can reach 120 decibels, have
been a source of consternation in downtown for the past
decade as they often roused sleepers in the middle of
The quiet zone project, from Park Boulevard to Laurel
Street, would make safety improvements at each rail
crossing, including gates blocking traffic, medians and
other measures to protect drivers and passengers. The
federal government allowed for quiet zones when it
passed new train regulations in 2005.
Most of the improvements would be paid for by
downtown redevelopment tax dollars.
The seemingly simple concept of silencing train horns
became complicated in San Diego because of the many
agencies and businesses that use the rail line. They
include Amtrak, Burlington Northern Santa Fe Railway,
the Metropolitan Transit System, the San Diego Trolley,
the San Diego and Imperial Valley Railroad and the North
County Transit District.
Construction for the quiet zone project is expected
to begin in August with a projected completion date of
Craig Gustafson: (619) 293-1399;