A SMART, Quiet Train in Store for S.F.'s North Bay
The new transit district "is spending $12 million on its train crossings to qualify them as quiet zones, where approaching trains may be exempted from blowing their horns", writes The Press Democrat's Bob Norberg. However, the final word will be had by the individual cities and either Marin or Sonoma Counties as they must "apply for to state and federal regulators for quiet zone designation."
SMART is a 70-mile rail and trail project serving 14 stations from Cloverdale in Sonoma County to the San Francisco-bound ferry terminal in Larkspur, Marin County with service scheduled to begin in late 2015 or early 2016. The track will be shared with Northwestern Pacific Railroad Co. freight trains.
Why designate a train crossing as a 'quiet zone'?
"In usual railroad operations, commute and freight train operators are required to sound the horn 15 to 20 seconds before reaching a crossing, with a pattern of two long blasts, a short blast and a final long blast.
The required decibel level is 96 to 110, loud enough to be heard but below ear-shattering."
The $12 million is going toward providing "special crossing gates and traffic islands that are intended to keep motorists from being able to drive onto the tracks. Only the cities and counties, however, have the authority to apply to the state Public Utilities Commission and the Federal Railroad Administration for quiet zone status."
The FRA Train Horn Rule Fact Sheet provides additional information on the requirements for locomotive engineers to blow the horns and the establishment of a "New Quiet Zone".
Further south in the Bay Area, the 50-mile San Jose to San Francisco Caltrain line is no stranger to residents complaining about train noise, as Palo Alto On-line reported on July 29, 2009 and the Mountain View Voice editorialized the following month.
Thanks to MTC-ABAG Library