The City of Fort Collins is exploring the implementation of quiet zones at rail crossings. A quiet zone is a section of a rail line that contains one or more consecutive public crossings at which train horns are not routinely sounded. Without a quiet zone, horns are sounded at crossings according to the regulations of the Federal Railroad Administration (FRA) Train Horn Rule. The rule also lays out the details of the improvements needed to establish a quiet zone.
Phase 1 of the Quiet Zone Study was conducted in 2011 with the support of the Downtown Development Authority. The study identified the necessary improvements to meet federal railroad quiet zone regulations in the Downtown area. Phase 2 of the Quiet Zone Study was completed in 2013 and includes the Burlington Northern Santa Fe (BNSF) crossings from south of Laurel Street to Trilby Road.
In early 2015 the City submitted a waiver request to the FRA for the BNSF crossings of Mason Street between Cherry Street and the CSU campus. This would allow the City to pursue a quiet zone with a special set of improvements unique to Fort Collins. The FRA denied the City of Fort Collins' petition for a waiver of a portion of the Train Horn Rule. At the same time, in an unprecedented move, the FRA Administrator will establish a Fort Collins Working Group with the Federal Highway and Federal Transit Administration staff. The historic move will help develop solutions and recommendations for the City moving forward.
1. What is a quiet zone?
A quiet zone is a section of a rail line that contains one or more consecutive public crossings at which locomotive horns are not routinely sounded. Jurisdiction of quiet zones falls under the Federal Railroad Administration (FRA) Train Horn Rule (49 CFR 222).
2. What is the Train Horn Rule?
The Train Horn Rule is an FRA regulation (49 CFR 222) providing detailed requirements on how trains sound their locomotive horn at public railroad crossings. The rule also provides details on how to implement safety measures that can maintain and/or establish a quiet zone.
3. Why has the FRA issued the Train Horn Rule?
The goal of the rule is to ensure safety for motorists at highway-rail grade crossings while allowing communities the opportunity to preserve or enhance quality of life for their residents by establishing areas/times in which train horns are silenced.
4. Why are the train horns so loud?
Train horn use at crossings is regulated by the FRA’s Train Horn Rule. That rule defines the timing and duration of the sounding of the horn, as well as the range of decibel levels. The range specified is 96dB-110dB.
5. What is the Quiet Zone Study?
The Quiet Zone Study identifies the safety improvements needed at public rail crossings for the establishment of a quiet zone. The first part of the analysis was supported by the Downtown Development Authority and includes improvements for the Downtown, including the River District and along Mason Street. The second part of the analysis includes a similar analysis for the Burlington Northern Santa Fe (BNSF) crossings south of Laurel Street to Trilby Road.
6. How do you establish a quiet zone?
To establish a quiet zone, FRA-approved safety improvements need to be implemented at one or more crossings. Typical safety improvements include four-quadrant gate systems or gates with raised medians (see more below).
7. What are some examples of improvements?
Examples of FRA-approved safety improvements include: a four quadrant gate, a wayside horn, and gates with raised median
8.What about funding?
A funding source has yet to be identified. Doing the analysis and conceptual design now will help ensure we are ready for implementation should a funding source become available
Amy Lewin, PE, Senior Transportation Planner
Joe Olson, PE, City Traffic Engineer
Dan Weinheimer, Policy and Project Manager