E-Mail Forum
  Train Horn Update
September 3, 2012

As many of you now, I have made the elimination of train horns a priority in Richmond for the last eight years. We have many successes, having established more Quiet Zones than any other city in California. It is a proven fact that sleep disturbance due to train horns can have serious physiological consequences, even to the point of indirectly causing death.

Despite proven and accepted alternatives, the railroad industry continues its obsession with high decibel horns (formerly whistles), an obsolete  Nineteenth Century technology, to communicate with itself and the rest of the world.

Most of southwest Richmond, which has the densest concentration of grade crossings, is now in quiet zones. New additions coming on line soon are the 4th Street and Cutting Crossings and the Canal Boulevard driveway crossings.

We are also working on three grade crossings south of Marina Bay and may have some news in a couple of weeks.

I have gotten a lot of complaints lately from residents of the Annex, Marina Bay and East Richmond Heights. Much of this appears to be related to a fiber optic installation project along the Union Pacific mainline track.  This is not a City project, but rather one being performed by UP and its contractors.  Train operators are blowing horns as required by Federal law and operating guidelines for safety reasons, namely to protect workers near the track.   We are trying to  learn when the project is scheduled to be finished; and am hopeful that that will put an end to the horns. 

Another sore spot is the private crossing at All Aboard Storage near Marina Bay, a private crossing under the jurisdiction of the California Public Utilities Commission. Since their screw up involving the San Bruno PG&E pipeline explosion, the California Public Utilities Commission has been scared to touch anything involving any aspect of public safety. Despite their Mission Statement and Vision Statement that include lofty goals that would lead you to believe they actually care about us, the CPUC is pretty much worthless.
“We lead with integrity, take initiative, and inspire a shared vision in the pursuit of the public interest.”
CPUC Mission Statement
“The California Public Utilities Commission betters the lives of all Californians through our recognized leadership in innovative communications, energy, transportation, and water policies and regulation.” 

The only relief for All Aboard Storage appears to be legislation, but the legislature doesn’t want to touch public safety issues either for much the same reason as the CPUC.  Alternatively, we have explored a state issued variance from the sounding requirements, but have not been able to procure funding for it. The cost is approximately $275,000 to make the improvements the state requires.

Also see Update on All Things Railroad - Train Horns, Pile Driving and Grade Crossings, January 25, 2012.