- The locomotive speed is 15 mph or less and the train crew provides warning to motorists,
- Supplementary safety measures (such as median barriers, four quadrant gates, all with constant warning time devices.) are equipped at each public highway-rail grade crossing within the proposed corridor, or
- The proposed highway-rail grade crossing corridor has a Quiet Zone Risk Index at or below the nationwide significant risk threshold. The Nationwide Significant Risk Threshold is the average risk index based on all public, gated crossings in the nation at which train horns are sounded.
Availability of state/federal funding
The US Department of Transportation Federal Highway Administration has directed that Section 130 funds and other similar safety funding sources may not be used for the development of quiet zones. However, a quiet zone may be created coincidentally with a corridor type crossing safety improvement that includes a clear safety cost-benefit and permanent crossing closures. NCDOT’s contribution must be exponentially related to the corridor’s safety cost-benefit.
Requirements to establish a new quiet zone
If a community wishes to work with the NCDOT on highway-railroad crossing safety improvement projects and crossing closures, NCDOT Rail Division may be able to participate in funding to support a community’s request for quiet zone development.
Two avenues exist for exist for working with the NCDOT to establish a quiet zone:
1. Complete a Traffic Separation Study or Area Crossing/Corridor Study, or
2. Close individual crossing(s)
If a community requests the development of a quiet zone and does not wish to close any crossings or complete a Traffic Separation Study, Area Crossing Study the community is then responsible for all costs associated with the quiet zone development. That includes any preliminary planning or engineering costs incurred as part of the process. Safety allocated funds may NOT be used to support a community’s request exclusively for quiet zone development.
Alternative to Quiet Zones
To address the public’s concern over noise levels, NCDOT is evaluating automated wayside horn systems. FRA has designated the wayside horn to be a one-to-one substitute for the use of locomotive horns at public highway-rail grade crossings.
The system is designed to reduce the overall ambient horn noise by using a warning horn installed at the crossing that focuses an audible warning at the railroad crossing itself instead of using the horns mounted on the trains. The system is activated by the existing crossing signal system and projects a recorded train horn sound to traffic at the railroad crossing. Transportation officials are hopeful that this type of detection system will be one way to address concerns from area residents regarding train noise pollution.
It is the professional opinion of NCDOT Rail Division engineers and planners that locomotive horns remain a critical component of ensuring the safety of highway-railroad crossings.
For more information on the Locomotive Horn Interim Final Rule or Quiet Zones, contact:
Thomas Drake, Crossing/ Trespasser Regional Manager
Federal Railroad Administration - Office of Safety
Sam Nunn Atlanta Federal Center
61 Forsyth St. SW, Suite 16T20
Atlanta, GA 30303-3104
For more information on establishing quiet zones in North Carolina, please contact Drew Thomas at 919-733-5564.