Silence is Golden - DelMar Quiet Zone

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Letters of Objection and Responses

Site under construction: two letters of objection have arrived. We DO NOT HAVE permission to post letters to the City of Del Mar, CA. Please contact the Del Mar City Clerk to secure a copy. Essentially, both letters raised safety and liability concerns. The quiet zone solution is in conformity with the Federal Railroad Act (FRA). Some believe installation of a horn in the intersection will increase safety. A premise of the investigatory and design process has been to assure that safety always trumps nuisance!make your donation...

Quieter train horns installed at railway crossing

By: Chris Nichols - North County Times - Californian

A group of Del Mar residents weary from blaring train horns liked what they heard Thursday during a test of quieter horns installed at the city's lone railway crossing.

With sound meters in hand, residents and rail officials tracked the decibel levels of the three "wayside horns" temporarily rigged at the crossing and compared them with the blasts from several Amtrak and Coaster trains that passed through.

The wayside horns consistently registered about 95 decibels, 10 to 15 decibels less than the train horns, several meters showed. The difference is akin to hearing a loud power lawn mower instead of a rock concert. State workplace safety officials recommend wearing ear protection at 85 decibels and above.

"If this system gets in place ... I'm going to be a happy guy," said Jim Benedict, a Del Mar resident and member of the Del Mar Quiet Zone Committee, a citizens group that pushed for the test. Rail officials noted that train engineers will always be able to blow train horns if necessary. A wayside horn system includes signals up the track from each crossing that will flash if the system is working properly ---- telling engineers they don't have to blow their train horns. Joining the residents at the crossing, just west of Del Mar Village and along Powerhouse Park, were state utility and federal and regional rail officials, and leaders from cities across North County.

Several, including Carlsbad City Councilman Matt Hall and Encinitas City Councilman Jerome Stocks, said they hoped to relay the results of the test to their respective cities. "If this works and our residents say, 'Gee, it makes a difference,' then I think other cities will follow our lead and try it," Del Mar Mayor Richard Earnest said.

The city of Del Mar is following the lead of its citizens. The citizens committee has pledged to pay for the horns, said Hershell Price, its chairman. Committee members estimate that they'll have to raise about $150,000 for the purchase and installation. They plan a workshop to present the results of the test in coming weeks.

The city, while it has blessed the project, does not have money to contribute to it, said Karen Brust, Del Mar's city manager. Loud train horns have generated complaints along North County's coast for years. Several residents said the problem has worsened as more trains run along the coastal railway. "The problem really is those big freight trains," Del Mar City Councilman Carl Hilliard said. "Those trains are equipped with horns that are intended to scare (away) prairie dogs thousands of yards from the track."

Horn complaints are also common along the Oceanside-to-Escondido Sprinter railway. But there are no planned tests and none has occurred on that corridor, North County Transit District spokeswoman Sarah Benson said. The public agency owns both railways. Robert Albritton, CEO of Quiet Zone Technologies, the company that made the horns used in Thursday's test, said a change in federal law about five years ago allowed the installation of wayside horns across the country. Even so, only about 100 crossings in the United States have wayside horns, Albritton said, with the nearest in Riverside and Paramount, a community near Los Angeles.

"There's a lot of communities that aren't fortunate enough to have money" to install the system, Albritton said, noting that he provided the horns free for the test.

"A lot of them don't know they can do this yet," he said.

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