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CalTrain horn noise increased -- many complaints

Original post made by Morris Brown, Menlo Park: Park Forest, on Jul 29, 2009

I copy below a news release issued by CalTrain in response to many complaints about increased horn noise.

I take great interest in the last paragraph of the release.

"Grade-separated crossings, as proposed by high-speed rail, would eliminate the need for engineers to sound the horn. Caltrain has entered into an agreement with the California High-Speed Rail Authority to bring the service along the Caltrain corridor. "

Let me say, that quiet zones could be established along the corridor at a tiny fraction of the cost of grade separations, and would eliminate the need to sound the horn. Quiet zones require quad gates to be in place at crossings which are at grade. The cost is about $250K per crossing. CalTrain is about to install quad gates as a safety measure at the Fail Oaks crossing in Atherton.

So let me say to CalTrain, "why don't you install quad gates at all of your at grade crossing and establish quiet zones." After all, CalTrain is supposed to be a service for the communities. The voters in the 3 counties paid for the train corridor with their taxpayer funds.

CalTrain has estimated the cost of electrification and installing grade separated crossing from SF to SJ at about $4.8 billion. That cost was for CalTrain alone, not for inclusion of High Speed rail.


(CalTrain news release)

Media Contact: Christine Dunn, 650.508.6238

Location of Caltrain Horns Changed
During a recent routine safety inspection it was discovered that Caltrain’s horns were not producing the distinct, separate, sequential blasts (tweet and toot) required by federal regulations.

Previously, the horns had been moved to the underside of the locomotives and cab cars in response to community concerns about noise. To comply with federal regulations the agency has returned the horns to their original location on top of the trains – at least for the interim.

Moving the horns to the top of the locomotives and cab cars has increased the volume and the range of the sound. Caltrain is working to reduce the volume, while making sure that the horns remain within the range established by the Federal Railroad Administration.

“We have to balance neighborhood concerns against the need for safety,” said Caltrain Deputy CEO Chuck Harvey. “It is important for people to remember that the engineers do not sound the horn gratuitously. They sound the horn to save lives and to comply with FRA requirements. We ask for the public’s patience while we attempt to adjust the horns.”

Caltrain engineers are required to sound the horn one-quarter mile before every grade crossing, where a street crosses the tracks. There are 44 crossings between San Francisco and San Jose. Engineers also sound the horn whenever they see a trespasser near the tracks.

Grade-separated crossings, as proposed by high-speed rail, would eliminate the need for engineers to sound the horn. Caltrain has entered into an agreement with the California High-Speed Rail Authority to bring the service along the Caltrain corridor.

Comments (4)

Like this comment
Posted by Pierced Ears
a resident of Menlo Park: Central Menlo Park
on Jul 29, 2009 at 1:44 pm

Many more postings / comments on this story on the Palo Alto Online Town Meeting section. Web Link Didnt realize there were TWO Town Squares for P.A. and Menlo.

Like this comment
Posted by Shane Spiegelman
a resident of another community
on Jul 29, 2009 at 2:14 pm

The only "train horn" federal requirement I could find is here: Web Link . It seems there are plenty of ways CalTrain could use to stop torturing us. I'm beginning to wonder if this isn't all just about them wanting to get the High Speed Rail's influx of cash???

Like this comment
Posted by John
a resident of Menlo Park: Downtown
on Jul 31, 2009 at 12:18 pm

It's not just the horn placement. I'm downtown as I write this, listening to a caltrains horn. they appear to be honking way more than usual-- it doesn't seem to let up at all. Is anyone else noticing this?

Like this comment
Posted by west menlo resident
a resident of Menlo Park: Central Menlo Park
on Aug 1, 2009 at 8:20 am

we live at least a mile away from the train, and also are alarmed about the increased train noise. "john" got it right - it's not just the volune but also the increased number and duration of honks. it's almost as if complaints get rewarded with even more intrusive noise.

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