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

March 17, 2019

How congestion pricing, MaaS, and new transit policies will benefit all

By working in tandem, these elements will result in better public transportation infrastructure, more egalitarian access to transit options, affordable or free services, and a healthier environment.

March 13, 2019

How private-sector vendors can successfully navigate transit agencies

What I found in my public sector roles was that often private sector vendors did not understand how we operated nor how to interface effectively with us as the public agency.

March 6, 2019

Labor Concerns Should Not Deter Deployment of AV Bus Tech

Transit agencies don’t need to wait for fully autonomous vehicles to become a reality before they can begin saving money, augmenting safety, and enhancing efficiencies in their bus operations.

February 28, 2019

The Major Tech Gap Impeding Mobility Innovation

Cities spend billions of dollars maintaining, upgrading, and operating their public transit networks, but this market receives remarkably short shrift in conversations about the future of mobility.

February 25, 2019

How AVs, TNCs and public transit will shape the future of transportation

In the next three to 15 years, autonomous vehicles will be the norm for commuting and other trips.

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