San Diego Quiet Zone
                                       Media Coverage

Money could be issue in city's 'quiet zone'

By THOR KAMBAN BIBERMAN, The Daily Transcript
Wednesday, June 23, 2010
In a 6-2 vote earlier this week, the San Diego City Council voted to approve a "quiet zone" that would prevent train operators from blasting their horns late at night while rolling through downtown.
But while the $20.9 million project itself has redevelopment dollars, funding the $60,000 annual maintenance cost is problematic.
"As it stands, this is an ongoing cost that will come out of the city's general fund," said Tom Aaron, Councilman Carl DeMaio's deputy chief of staff. DeMaio and Councilwoman Donna Frye voted against the legislation.
DeMaio has said it would be imprudent to spend the maintenance funds at a time when the city has a projected $72 million budget deficit.
Derek Danziger, a Centre City Development Corp. spokesman, said the creation of an assessment district might be one way of addressing this expense, and that frustration may be at a high enough level for people to tax themselves for the peace and quiet.
The quiet zone will cover the downtown railroad tracks between the southern extent of Park Boulevard near Petco Park and Laurel Street in the Little Italy area.
Improvements -- ranging from signalization to lights to gates medians and other barriers -- will go across 12 downtown street intersections, plus adjacent to where a new pedestrian bridge that will soon span Harbor Drive, will land near Petco Park.
Under the federal definition, a quiet zone is at least half a mile long, must have flashing lights and signs to keep people and cars back.
In San Diego's case, the zone will be roughly a mile long.
"This will be one of the largest quiet zones in the United States," Danziger said.
The battle between residents and trains has been an ongoing.
The Federal Railroad Administration had originally considered quiet zone legislation in 2001.
"The final rule was implemented in 2005," Danziger recalled.
The Burlington Northern & Santa Fe Railway (NYSE: BNI) had considered a quiet zone program for downtown in 2003, but the city elected to wait until the federal rules were codified.
About 30,000 people currently live downtown -- a figure the Centre City Development Corp. says could triple between now and 2030.
Residents of Little Italy and the Marina District have been particularly vocal about trains.
Just how loud are the horns? Until a quiet zone is established, federal rules allow the trains to blast in a range of 96 to 110 decibels as measured 100 feet in front of the locomotive and 15 feet above the rail.
Residents haven't been the only ones complaining. Danziger noted that hotel executives from the Omni to the San Diego Marriott & Marina have mentioned the noise during recent council meetings.
Burlington Northern is far from being the only train that will be impacted by the quiet zone, Amtrak, the San Diego & Imperial Valley Railroad and the San Diego Trolley also share the track among several other users here.
"We have to coordinate with each of them," Danziger said.
Project construction is expected to begin some time in August, with completion slated for November 2011.
West Coast General Corp., of Poway and Temecula, is the general contractor.

Last modified:  Friday, June 25, 2010 04:20 PM Copyright 2006