OCTA CEO: The coveted 'quiet zone'

Posted on February 25, 2011 by Will Kempton

“I hear the train a coming, it’s rolling round the bend and I ain’t seen sunshine since I don’t know when …” -"Folsom Prison Blues"

The famous song by Johnny Cash sums things up pretty well for thousands of residents who can’t remember the last time their sleep wasn’t interrupted by a freight train rumbling through the neighborhood blowing its horn in the middle of the night.

That tune is changing in Orange County, as this month one of the nation’s most comprehensive rail safety enhancement programs ushers in a new era of silence around our railroad tracks.

In recent years, Orange County’s commuter rail service has expanded, a positive sign as our freeways and streets become more congested. In addition, our rail lines provide a growing link to move goods out of the Ports of Los Angeles and Long Beach, the busiest in the nation.
 
This Orange County Transportation Authority (OCTA) program is in direct response to the concerns of residents, who have been experiencing an increase in rail traffic, and the corresponding noise that comes from federal safety requirements. By law, engineers must sound their horns up to four times when they approach a crossing. And when there are multiple crossings within a short distance of each other, it can sound as if the horn is continuously blasting.

OCTA has taken a proactive approach to addressing the issue of noise by initiating the rail safety enhancement program.

The program has a dual advantage for Orange County. Most importantly, it improves safety at 50 crossings throughout the county by upgrading and updating warning devices, coordinating traffic signals, adding additional gate arms, extending medians and adding pedestrian gates. While these enhancements deter and prevent pedestrians and motorists from breaking the law, they are coupled with a robust public outreach campaign to raise awareness about how to be safe along the tracks. With more than 650 people killed in the U.S. last year on railroad tracks, this is an essential component. 

Enhancing the safety infrastructure allows the cities with the crossings to apply for quiet zone status with the Federal Railroad Administration once construction is complete. Implementing quiet zones means that trains will only sound their horns if the engineer believes it necessary for safety reasons or the train is traveling through an area with construction.

OCTA worked collaboratively with eight cities in the county where there are at-grade rail crossings. We established cooperative agreements with each city and are funding 88 percent of construction, with the individual cities contributing 12 percent. The $85 million program is being funded through Measure M2, Orange County’s voter-approved half-cent sales tax for transportation improvements administered by OCTA.
 
Of the eight cities involved in the program, Orange and part of Anaheim, both of which include more than 10 crossings through the heart of their cities, have been granted quiet zone status as of February 24.
 
This is a significant milestone for the cities that partnered with OCTA on this program designed to improve safety and bring relief to residents. Construction is continuing on the remaining crossings with completion anticipated by the end of this year.
 
As freight rail increases and transit-oriented developments continue to emerge in many parts of the country, it’s critical that public transit agencies are taking positive steps to increase safety for those who live in our communities. In addition, as we look to our residents to support and utilize increased commuter rail, it is incumbent upon us to minimize the impacts on their communities.

We can’t afford to have our residents singing the blues.

In case you missed it...

Read our METRO blog, "Public transportation to the rescue," here.

View comments or post a comment on this story. (1 Comment)

More Transit Dispatches Blog Posts

November 7, 2017

‘Precarious’ Transit Workforce Needs Data, Research to Help Fill the Void

As experienced workers retire, the pool of people to hire away has dried up. In recent years, it has become clear that talent needs to be developed rather than poached.

October 31, 2017

Autonomous shuttles could end commuting woes

Public transit options haven't provided commuters with enough first-mile/last-mile solutions, but a driverless shuttle could be what wins drivers over.

October 31, 2017

7 Tips for Making, Saving Money for Your Transit Agency

If there’s one thing I’ve learned in thirty years about getting increased funding from your board, it’s that winners get investment. People want to invest in winners because they have already shown a propensity to get results with what they have.  

October 25, 2017

Practice is Key for Incident Response on Rail Systems

Working in subway tunnels is difficult under any circumstances and when you have to maneuver around an electrified third rail in an environment with less lighting, the task is even more daunting. Now imagine what it is like during an emergency...

September 20, 2017

The Transit Industry's Workforce Challenge is Still Real

Where are we today with the great anticipated retirement wave? It looks like it may finally be starting, if not fully underway. It seems at least a couple times each month we here of a transit CEO who is retiring, technical staff who are leaving, and the difficulty in filling maintenance and operations positions with skilled workers for those who have retired.

See More

Post a Comment

Post Comment

Comments (1)

More From The World's Largest Fleet Publisher

Automotive Fleet

The Car and truck fleet and leasing management magazine

Business Fleet

managing 10-50 company vehicles

Fleet Financials

Executive vehicle management

Government Fleet

managing public sector vehicles & equipment

TruckingInfo.com

THE COMMERCIAL TRUCK INDUSTRY’S MOST IN-DEPTH INFORMATION SOURCE

Work Truck Magazine

The number 1 resource for vocational truck fleets

Schoolbus Fleet

Serving school transportation professionals in the U.S. and Canada

LCT Magazine

Global Resource For Limousine and Bus Transportation

Please sign in or register to .    Close