San Jose to create a ‘quiet zone’ to stop trains from blaring horns at night

The sound of late-night freight trains blasting their horns and rattling downtown San Jose residents awake from deep slumber may soon be a sore memory of the past.

After years of constant noise complaints from residents living near the diesel train tracks, San Jose has finally figured out a way to keep the racket down.

The city plans to create an overnight “quiet zone” along the Union Pacific Warm Springs Railroad corridor, requiring train operators to silence their horns at crossings from 10 p.m. to 7 a.m. The quiet zone would run 1.8 miles long — from the crossing at Montgomery Street near the Diridon Station past the Hensley and Japantown neighborhoods and end at Horning Street near the northern city limit. The changes could come as early as November.

Train operators have long been required, under federal law, to sound their horns at crossings to warn nearby motorists and pedestrians to stay away from the tracks — unless a city like San Jose can meet certain requirements, such as warning signs and bells at crossings, and establish a “quiet zone.” A study completed earlier this month confirmed that San Jose meets the requirements to move forward with its plan after issuing notices to specific stakeholders such as Union Pacific.

“Over the last (year and a half) our residents have suffered greatly from sleep deprivation, and the establishment of this partial quiet zone will finally restore the quality of life for residents along the Union Pacific Railroad corridor,” Councilmember Raul Peralez, who represents the city’s downtown core, said in a letter to his constituents.

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It wasn’t until February 2019 that the jarring train signals became unbearable for many downtown San Jose residents.

That’s when Union Pacific significantly increased the number of trains passing through San Jose every day and began running trains at night as part of a plan to reduce idling locomotives. Union Pacific now operates an average of six trains per day — three trains during the day and three trains between 8 p.m. and the early hours of the morning.

Jason Muehring, who lives about a block away from the tracks in the Hensley neighborhood and has been working with the city closely to find a resolution to the disruption, called the city’s plan for quiet zones “a great accomplishment.”

“I’m thrilled that later this calendar year, my family and my neighbors will finally be able to sleep through the night without being woken up by train horns,” he said.

But Muehring isn’t fully satisfied just yet.

He wants to see the city expand it to a 24-hour quiet zone, so that not only could neighboring residents enjoy better sleep at night but Japantown businesses and visitors could also experience fewer interruptions during the daytime.

To require trains to silence their horns at all hours, however, is a much more cumbersome and costly task that requires constructing new safety measures and infrastructure at railroad crossings. Those safety upgrades — such as improving signals and installing pedestrian gates — at all …read more

Source:: The Mercury News – Politics


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