Atherton plans to hire a consultant this week to help the town make the stretch of the town's railroad tracks near the Fair Oaks Lane crossing into a "quiet zone" where trains could sound their horns only if they encounter a hazard, City Manager George Rodericks said.
The consultants competing for the job were told that their "primary focus" would be "to achieve a Quiet Zone designation for the Fair Oaks Crossing as soon as possible." The town wants the consultant to start working as soon as mid-January, Mr. Rodericks said.
If the quiet zone is adopted, train horns would not sound at the Fair Oaks Lane crossing, but would still sound at the nearby Watkins Avenue crossing.
According to a staff report, the quiet zone would be the first on the Caltrain corridor. There are 36 quiet zones in California, the report says, with nine of them single grade-level railroad crossings as Atherton is proposing.
The move to make the crossing a quiet zone probably would not have come about without the research of Rail Committee member Nerissa Dexter. In October 2014, the town was told by Caltrain "that FRA (Federal Rail Administration) regulations (on quiet zones) typically require at least a 10 year interval with no nearby fatalities, a situation that could not currently be met."
But Ms. Dexter's research found that the Federal Rail Administration does not count deaths by suicide as casualities and does not consider nearby casualties, and in fact listed no casualities in Atherton.