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
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
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 firstname.lastname@example.org.
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.
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.