The Federal Railroad Administration (FRA) announced publication
of a rule to allow local communities to quiet train horns
at some 150,000 railroad crossings nationwide if important
safety requirements are met.
The agencys Interim Final Rule describes
specific standards local decision-makers can use to silence
locomotive horns, while improving safety at public highway-rail
grade crossings, and allowing many communities with existing
whistle bans to maintain those prohibitions.
Train horns are important safety devices, but they also
can be a nuisance for residents, said U.S. Secretary
of Transportation Norman Y. Mineta. This rule means
less noise for millions of Americans living near railroad
Research has shown that locomotive horns provide an
important warning to motorists in advance of highway-rail
grade crossings, said Administrator Allan Rutter. However,
we have sought to respond to the many communities which have
continued to press for relief from unwanted train horn noise.
This rule will provide new flexibility in creating quiet zones,
while maintaining safety at highway-rail grade crossings.
Under the rule, local governments will have the opportunity
to establish quiet zones in certain areas where there is a
low risk of collision, or to make specific upgrades meant
to lessen the risk where the hazards are greater. The upgrade
options include the installation of crossing gates that block
both lanes of traffic in both directions or some type of approved
median divider to prevent drivers from crossing lanes to go
around a lowered gate, the temporary closure of a crossing,
or a one-way street with gates and lights. The rule also allows
use of an automated horn system to be installed at the crossing
as a substitute for the train horn.
Our challenge has been to ensure the highest level
of public safety possible, while recognizing communities
legitimate interest in seeking relief from unwanted noise,
Administrator Rutter said.
For communities with whistle bans, the rule outlines specific
steps local jurisdictions can take to maintain those restrictions,
provided they notify FRA of their plan to create a pre-rule
quiet zone and take the steps required to qualify them
By employing a risk-based approach, communities with
'grand-fathered' whistle bans can maintain the quality of
life theyve become accustomed to while ensuring public
safety at highway rail-grade crossings, Rutter said.
By law, the final rule will take effect December 18, 2004,
one year following the date of its publication tomorrow, but
communities with existing whistle bans will have at least
five years to implement the requirements. The rule will pre-empt
existing State and local laws governing the sounding of locomotive
horns. FRA will not require that locomotive horns be sounded
at private highway-rail crossings instead leaving those decisions
to the States.
The Federal Railroad Safety Authorization Act of 1994 required
the Secretary of Transportation to issue regulations that
require locomotive horns be sounded on approach to and while
traveling across public highway-rail crossings except under
specified conditions. Copies of the Interim Final Rule, Final
Environmental Impact Analysis and related documents may be
found online at www.fra.dot.gov and at http://dms.dot.gov.
Comments on the Interim Final Rule may be submitted online
via the U.S. Department of Transportations online Docket
Management System at http://dms.dot.gov.