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Letter: Why not a quiet zone for Menlo Park?

Original post made on Feb 21, 2008

At the joint City Council study session with Atherton Jan. 29, I requested that formation of a railroad quiet zone for Menlo Park should be considered.

Read the full story here Web Link posted Wednesday, February 20, 2008, 12:00 AM

Comments (9)

Posted by Confused, a resident of Menlo Park: Allied Arts/Stanford Park
on Feb 21, 2008 at 11:59 am

I'm just not getting this. Do you mean the city could declare a citywide "quiet zone" and no train would be allowed to sound a horn within city limits? Or would it be only at specific interesections? And if it would be limited, where do you propose the quiet zone to be? And what are the safety issues involved?


Posted by Martin Engel, a resident of Menlo Park: Park Forest
on Feb 22, 2008 at 11:59 am

Some Quiet-Zone web sites from Google:

It's technical and complicated and long, but it's definitive:
Web Link

This one is from Union Pacific RR. They generally don't want Quiet Zones (they'd rather blow their horns) but, here is their information about QZ:
Web Link

Here's another one with good information:
Web Link


Posted by Agree, a resident of Menlo Park: Belle Haven
on Feb 23, 2008 at 4:56 pm

I think those living next to the railroad or fire stations would be for that


Posted by Martin Engel, a resident of Menlo Park: Park Forest
on Feb 23, 2008 at 4:58 pm

Quiet Zones:

1. Unless you live near the rail corridor, you probably never heard of Quiet Zones and/or you don't care one way or the other.
2. They won't happen if the high-speed rail bond issue passes this November because there will be grade separation funding for the high-speed train on the Caltrain corridor. All our cross streets must be grade separated.
3. QZs require construction of crossing gates on both lanes, both sides of the street, not just the two lanes presently gated. These are called four-quad gates.
4. They cost anywhere from $250K to $500K for each of our four streets. There are other expenses as well, for signaling, other electronics, the approval process, etc.
5. Caltrain won't pay for them, but they have to install them.
6. The Federal government (FRA) has to approve the improved safety measures at all our crossings in order to certify a Quiet Zone.
7. The rail industry, Caltrain, etc. don't like them; they would rather blow their horns.
8. Getting them is an uphill battle for very determined citizens, residents and politicians.


Posted by Outtatowner, a resident of another community
on Feb 25, 2008 at 12:44 pm

Just a thought here...with all the people who get hit by trains in this area...perhaps the horns are a good thing. And as far as the noise goes...every person who bought a home within earshot of the tracks, knew about it before they bought. You knew what you were getting into, so why should we endanger the public, or add extra expense of putting super gates up, when you knew ahead of time what you were getting into. I live by an airport...I knew it going in, and sure sometimes it is noisy...but this is where I "CHOSE" to live. Since we are not indiscriminantly forced to live places...I say leave well enough alone. If the train is too noisy, move.


Posted by intowner, a resident of Menlo Park: Downtown
on Feb 25, 2008 at 1:40 pm

Outtatowner may not understand that Quiet Zones include greatly beefed up gates that should make each crossing much more safe so that horns are not necessary.


Posted by Roxie, a resident of Menlo Park: University Heights
on Feb 25, 2008 at 4:59 pm

I agree with outtatowner - those who live near the railroad tracks knew what they were getting into when they bought their homes. The city should not be forced to spend hundreds of thousands (or millions) of dollars to please a handfull of residents. We need grade separations which will be safer for the public and eliminate the horn whistles which disturb the residents. We should at least wait until after the November election to decide on quiet zones, because if it turns out that the measure passes and the grade separations are mandated, any city money spent on quiet zones is just money down the drain.

Also, I think the folks asking for quiet zones might feel a little less upset if they keep in mind that the trains do not blow their horns "because the like to" -- the horns warn drivers and pedestrians at crossings of oncoming trains and thus prevent many accidents and fatalities that could occur.


Posted by Joanna, a resident of Menlo Park: Downtown
on Feb 26, 2008 at 12:13 pm

Those who bought next to railroads knew what they were buying themselves into.

Isn't it safer to have a horn? No matter what the time?


Posted by stressed out resident, a resident of Menlo Park: South of Seminary/Vintage Oaks
on Feb 26, 2008 at 10:33 pm

I don't live near the train tracks and can't hear the train inside my house, but I support quiet zones. It's unsettling to be blasted by horns when you're watching a soccer or baseball game or attending a meeting on the Burgess campus. Never mind the hours and hours we all spend sitting at the crossing gates to the accompaniment of deafening horns.

Those of you advocating grade seps over quiet zones because "quiet zones cost too much" should be aware that grade separations would cost much more (100x as much according to some figures I've seen). As for the horns enhancing safety: people who ignore the crossing gates and don't bother to look for trains aren't going to be dissuaded by loud noises either.

I've heard that the Caltrain engineers deliberately blast the horns when they go through Menlo Park because they are angry that we don't have grade separations. Rumor, perhaps, or maybe the horns just seem louder here than they do in other cities. In any case, if there's anything our cities can do to tone down the major source of noise pollution in this area, more power to them.


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