Train Horn Regulations
Trains have sounded horns or whistles as they approach crossings as a safety measure for more than a century. In the 1980’s, Florida imposed a horn ban and the Federal Railroad Administration (FRA) noted a significant increase in grade crossing accidents. As a result, over the years, the FRA and Congress have developed rules requiring that trains sound their horn at all grade crossings nationwide, and specifying the volume, length and pattern of the sound. The FRA has also established a very thorough process for establishing quiet zones, which prohibits the use of train horns at qualifying railroad crossings and thereby mitigating the effects of train horn noise on surrounding residents and business owners.
Quiet Zone Established for Rodenburg Rd. Crossing
The quiet zone for the Rodebnurg Road railroad crossing officially went live on September 9, 2016. As part of the establishment of the quiet zone, traffic channelization devices (vertical tubes that prevent vehicles from driving around lowered gates) were installed along the middle of Rodenburg Road on both the north and south sides of the crossing. Because the absence of routine horn sounding increases the risk of a crossing collision, the Village was required to mitigate the additional risk through the installation of the channelization devices. Horns within the quiet zone may still be used in the case of an emergency and to comply with federal or other railroad regulations.
Quiet Zone Evaluated for Downtown Crossings
A train horn quiet zone study was conducted on the downtown railroad crossings at Roselle Road, Prospect Street, and Park Street in 2014 to evaluate the feasibility of establishing a quiet zone in the downtown. A copy of the feasibility study done in 2014 is available here for download (PDF). The study identified that due to unique roadway configurations and other adjacent property circumstances that mitigating the additional risk of a crossing collision in the downtown would be costlier and more complex than the quiet zone established at Rodenburg Road. As a result, the Village has retained a professional engineering company to initiate early steps in the establishment of a quiet zone, which includes data collection, engineering design, FRA review, and stakeholder meetings.
The most crucial step in the process is the FRA review. On March 23, 2018, the Village submitted an application to the FRA for the review and approval of Alternate Safety Measures being proposed for the Roselle Road, Prospect Street, and Park Street railroad crossings. Before any decision was made to establish a train horn quiet zone in downtown Roselle, the Village Board first was interested in knowing if proposed safety improvements such as traffic channelization devices and other roadway configuration changes were enough to mitigate risk factors at these three railroad crossings.
Unfortunately, the Village was notified on October 11, 2019, that the FRA could not approve the Village’s application to establish a 24 hours train horn quiet zone at the three downtown crossings because the FRA’s Train Horn Rule does not apply to the proposed crossings. The FRA said jurisdiction of the matter rests with the Illinois Commerce Commission (ICC), the state agency responsible for establishing the midnight to 5:00 a.m. partial train horn quiet zone along the same three crossings. Since receiving this response from the FRA, the Village has contacted ICC representatives and requested a meeting to discuss the FRA’s ruling, and to see if the ICC may consider alternatives under its authority to establish a 24 hour train horn quiet zone along this corridor of downtown Roselle. The ICC has informed the Village that it will respond to its request by March of 2020.
Partial Quiet Zones in Roselle
Roselle does currently have partial quiet zones that cover the crossings at Roselle Road, Prospect Street, and Park Street. However, the quiet zone only applies between the hours of midnight to 5:00 a.m. Outside of the midnight to 5:00 a.m. hours, train horns are sounded at these intersections. Even with a partial quiet zone, the use of horns is allowed at any time that the engineer believes a safety concern exists (such as cars or pedestrians on or near the tracks).
Engineers must begin to sound train horns at least 15 seconds, and no more than 20 seconds, in advance of all public grade crossings. If a train is traveling faster than 60 MPH, which includes some trains traveling through Roselle, the engineer sounds the horn within ¼ mile of the crossing. Train horns must be sounded in a pattern of 2 long, 1 short and 1 long blasts. Federal Law does not stipulate the duration of the blasts. By requirement, the maximum volume level for the train horn is 110 decibels and the minimum sound level is 96 decibels. These rules apply to the grade crossings in Roselle at Roselle Road, Prospect Street, and Park Street.