Welcome to San Diego Blog | September 22, 2011

Downtown San Diego Quiet Zone

The San Diego Quiet Zone…

…is an economic driver for Downtown San Diego with far reaching consequences.  As Realtors and Downtown residents, we see the impact on residents and neighborhoods.  We’re concerned about quality of life–and its impact on property values.  Undeniably, train noise has had a huge impact in all of the Downtown Neighborhoods.

However, the impact of The San Diego Quiet Zone extends far beyond Downtown Residents.  As the Convention Center, Marina Marriott and Manchester Grand Hyatt became central to San Diego as a tourist destination, abatement of train noise became an important economic driver for tourism, as well.  The train track is within a pitching wedge of all of these locations.

They report numerous circumstances of conventions lost and guest experiences ruined by train noise.

Discussion of the San Diego Quiet Zone is first mentioned in 1994.  Some of Downtown’s earliest residents questioned the need for trains to blast their horns in the middle of the night.  It was identified as a quality of life issue in the early development of Downtown residences.

Most residents and business owners agree that action was long overdue.  Finally in early summer 2010 the San Diego Quiet Zone was approved.

The mechanics of San  Diego Quiet Zone

The Federal Rail Administration (ever heard of that bureaucratic speed bump before) sets the federal government’s standard and determines the process for safe railroad crossings. 

They, along with the City of San Diego, MTS (The San Diego Trolleys), The California Public Utilities Corp and Downtown’s CCDC ultimately set the bar for what would become the San Diego Quiet Zone.

The root of the problem

Currently the federal rule states:

“The train horn must be sounded in a discernible pattern of two long blasts, one short blast and one long blast 15 to 20 seconds before the crossing and prolonged until the train occupies the crossing. If multiple crossings are close together, the engineer can vary this pattern. Train horn use is in effect 24 hours a day, 7 days a week. if San Diego establishes a Quiet Zone downtown, this rule would not be in effect, unless the engineer identified a potential emergency or safety issue.”

The FRA has provided the “roadmap” for the San Diego Quiet Zone.  Since July 2010,  all 13 grade crossings in Downtown San Diego will be reconstructed.  Many will have new barriers for both cars and pedestrians.  Approaches are being reconfigured with boulevards and other barriers for increased safety. 

Testing on the San Diego Quiet Zone has been taking place over the past 60 days–with completion expected by “winter 2011.”

How much noise will really be reduced by the Quiet Zone

Noise reduction will be significant.  “A designated Quiet Zone stops the routine sounding of the horn that is used to warn motorists and pedestrians that the train is approaching a crossing.  Train horns will continue as trains enter and leave the station, and in emergencies.”

But, as 13 grade crossings will no longer require the engineer to blow the horn routinely, the change is huge.  From the Marina District to Little Italy the sound of quiet will echo from our patios to our bedrooms.  We can hardly wait!

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Written by: Dannecker & Associates

Categories: Downtown San Diego, Uncategorized

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