San Diego Quiet Zone
John L. Anderson, PE
CCDC Senior Project Manager - Public Works
225 Broadway, Suite 1100
San Diego, CA 92101-5074
(619) 533-7140   (619) 236-9148 fax

Summer 2006 Report

Downtown San Diego’s remarkable renaissance has intensified the urban core with a mix of residential, commercial and public infrastructure projects. However, downtown’s industrial past also remains an active part of the local economy.

One of the greatest challenges of this infrastructure and industry integration is transportation of goods, particularly rail cargo moving along the waterfront to destinations throughout the world. Downtown has a long history as a center of transportation; the original pier at the foot of Fifth Avenue served as the main hub of commercial activity, hosting ships that unloaded their cargo to waiting railcars. Rail lines along formerly vacant land conflict with the residential uses that seek the views and quality of life offered by a waterfront location.

Because thousands of people now live along downtown’s railway lines, noise and safety at rail crossings have become major concerns for residents, the City of San Diego and CCDC. This has prompted CCDC to apply for a Federal Quiet Zone designation, which will improve downtown’s 13 rail crossings (Park Boulevard to Laurel Street) with safety enhancements such as additional gates and warning lights and reduce the need for train whistles.

 “Safety is the greatest concern when implementing a Quiet Zone,” said CCDC President Nancy Graham. “With an increased population and more people walking or riding bikes to their destinations, we have put in place the necessary improvements to keep everyone out of harm’s way. We also recognize the important effect that fewer train horns will have on the quality of life for Downtowners.”

A Quiet Zone, approved and authorized by the Federal Railroad Administration (FRA), is a public grade crossing(s) where additional safety precautions have been constructed, reducing the federal requirement for trains to sound their horns when approaching the crossing(s). When the Quiet Zone is in effect, the train will not be legally required to blow the horn when approaching crossings, except in situations deemed as emergencies by the engineer.

Establishing a Downtown San Diego Quiet Zone will improve the quality of life of residents and visitors by reducing train horn noise and at the same time improving safety conditions for vehicles and pedestrians. Currently, the schedule calls for the implementation of these improvements to be completed by fall 2007, however District 2 Councilman Kevin Faulconer is hoping to accelerate this process.

A Quiet Zone dedication is a viable solution to the challenge of having two seemingly incompatible land uses in such close proximity. The Quiet Zone designation is a federal program that has been implemented to address this problem throughout the country. As more and more American cities embrace the concept of urban living and concentrate density in their urban cores, legislation was necessary to make this transition a smooth one.

Concerning train horn noise from now to the implementation of the Quiet Zone,  the City-Councilmember Faulconer of District Two and CCDC have set up a train horn complaint process, located at email address  Council District 2 reviews the complaints with CCDC staff and forwards the complaints to the appropriate railroad entity and the FRA, which is responsible for the enforcement of excessive train horn noise (along with the required train horn blowing) for review and response.

North County Transit District currently has a construction project tentatively scheduled to start Fall of 2006, The Del Mar Bluffs Reconstruction, which will close the heavy rail line at night for a number of months, thereby reducing trains through downtown San Diego, and train horn noise at night accordingly for the length  of that project.

Last modified:  Saturday, June 05, 2010 08:39 AM Copyright © 2006