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Railroad Crossing Enhancements

Quiet Zones

A quiet zone is a section of rail line at least one half mile in length containing one or more consecutive public highway-rail grade crossings at which locomotive horns are not routinely sounded. Routine sounding can be silenced at specific highway-rail grade crossings after a safety system or procedure established by the appropriate traffic control authority is determined, by the Federal Railroad Administration (FRA), to be an effective substitute for the locomotive horn.

In 2005, the FRA issued a Final Rule on the use of locomotive horns at railroad crossings. The rule requires locomotive horns be sounded within ¼ mile in advance of an at-grade crossing to warn drivers and pedestrians approaching the crossing. The rule also defines a process where communities can work with the railroads, their Public Utilities Commission (PUC), and the FRA, to mitigate the impacts of train horn noise by establishing new quiet zones. New quiet zones may be created if all public highway-rail grade crossings are equipped with flashing lights and gates; and either:

  • After adjusting for excess risk created by silencing the train horn, the average risk at the crossings is less than the National Significant Risk Threshold (NSRT); or
  • Supplemental Safety Measures are present at each public crossing; or
  • Safety improvements are made that compensate for loss of the train horn as a warning device (or at least to reduce average risk to below the NSRT).

City Involvement

OCTA partnered with eight cities along the OCTA–owned rail corridor to implement rail safety enhancements that provided the cities with the opportunity to establish a quiet zone. Crossings in the cities of Anaheim, Dana Point, Irvine, Orange, San Clemente, San Juan Capistrano, Santa Ana, and Tustin have established quiet zones. Placentia also implemented a quiet zone along the BNSF rail corridor. In addition, the City of San Clemente installed a Pedestrian Audible Warning System (PAWS) to substitute for the sounding of train horns.

How to Report a Train Horn Violation

Federal law requires train engineers to do a routine sounding of their train horns – two long bursts, a short burst and one long burst – every time a train approaches a railroad crossing, unless the crossing is within a quiet zone. Within a quiet zone, routine soundings are prohibited. Non-routine soundings of the train horn are allowed within a quiet zone when a train engineer determines that the horn should be sounded to prevent imminent injury, death, or property damage. Below are examples of situations under which a train engineer would do a non-routine sounding of the train horn within a quiet zone:

  • Construction or maintenance work on or near the train tracks
  • Pedestrians, animals, vehicle operators, trespassers or crews on or near the train tracks
  • Active grade crossing warning devices are malfunctioning, temporarily out of service, or not visible

A potential horn violation in a quiet zone would include the constant sounding of the specific routine horn pattern mentioned above, during a non-emergency situation. To report a potential train horn violation, please identify the city railroad crossing, train type, engine number, day and time and length of horn sound, if possible. These reports can be emailed to your city representative. The complaint will be kept on file with the city and forwarded to the appropriate railroad and the FRA with a request to take action, if necessary. To find your city representative’s contact information, please use the map or table below.

Map of Quiet Zones At-Grade Crossings

Anaheim Rafael Cobian
Dana Point Matt Sinacori
Irvine Mike Davis
Orange Paul Sitkoff
San Clemente Kiel Koger
San Juan Capistrano Public Works
Santa Ana Monica Suter
Tustin Krys Saldivar