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...

Del Mar tests train-crossing horn - Stationary devices possibly an option

By: Tanya Mannes - Sign On San Diego

June Stein is getting sick of train engineers blasting their horns on the rail line just downhill from her oceanview home next to the L'Auberge Del Mar resort.

Trains chug by 52 times a day. The noise is so loud it interrupts her telephone conversations and wakes her husband, Lee, at 2 a.m.

"It's horrible," she said. "We can't tolerate it anymore."

Last year, a committee of Del Mar residents chaired by civic activist Hershell Price considered the possibility of creating a horn-free zone to address complaints about the train noise. That would mean installing gates and median barriers, among other safety measures, to lessen the need for engineers to sound their horns. But officials concluded that the expense — as much as $1 million per intersection — would be too high for the city of 4,600 residents, said Public Works Director David Scherer.

Now the city is testing a new idea that could dramatically reduce the horn noise in most places at a fraction of the cost of a quiet zone.

On Thursday, Del Mar officials and representatives of other cities gathered in Seaside Park for a demonstration of a wayside horn, a $150,000 device affixed at the crossing.

June Stein, standing on her home's balcony as the test horn went off, said it sounds "much, much better."

The wayside horn produces less noise and over a smaller area than the train horns. The wayside horn is 92 decibels heard within one acre. Train horns are 100 to 110 decibels heard over 31 acres while the train is moving, according to Robert Albritton of Quiet Zone Technologies, the wayside horn manufacturer. Albritton said the horns are being used in 23 communities in the U.S., including more than a dozen in California.

In comparison, a home lawn mower is about 100 decibels and a truck without a muffler is 90 decibels.

The wayside horn certainly would reduce noise levels for many residents, officials said. The big question is whether the horn would be better or worse for immediate neighbors of the crossing. If those residents agree it's better, the city will try to raise money from private donors to install the system.

Larry Richards, who lives about 400 feet from the tracks, said the horn would be a big improvement for him. His home is 1/8-mile from the crossing where the wayside horn would be, however. He said it's important for those who live next to the crossing to weigh in.

Most cities along the rail line except for Solana Beach, which has no crossings, have discussed establishing quiet zones, but the expense has been a stumbling block.

San Diego is the only county city moving forward on establishing a downtown quiet zone; a bidding process is under way through the Centre City Development Corp, the city's downtown redevelopment arm. The $20.6 million program will be one of largest urban quiet zones in the U.S., covering 13 railroad crossings between Laurel Street and Park Boulevard.

The Del Mar horn test was attended by officials from Carlsbad, Encinitas, San Marcos and Vista, as well as representatives of agencies that regulate the rail crossings, such as the Public Utilities Commission and the Federal Railroad Administration.

Del Mar Mayor Richard Earnest said he is looking forward to hearing from residents who listened during the test.

North County Transit District Chairman Bob Campbell, a Vista city councilman, said the district doesn't have the money to experiment with wayside horns. He said that if Del Mar or another city finds funding to install the horns and they are successful, the district might consider seeking grants to expand their use.

Encinitas Councilman Jerome Stocks, who also serves on the transit district's board, said he plans to ask for a demonstration in his city.

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