UPDATE on TRAIN HORNS, QUIET ZONES and LONG TRAINS

January 25, 2012
Update on All Things Railroad - Train Horns, Pile Driving and Grade Crossings - Tom Butt E-Forum

April 19, 2007
Please see the City of Richmond's Quiet Zone / Train Horns Web Pages

Quiet ZoneJanuary 6, 2007
To All,
As of 12:01 AM January 6, 2007 BNSF has finally agreed to honor both Quiet Zones here in the Point.
Thank you Carlos, Fred, Rich, Louis, and Tom for all your help in getting BNSF to stop sounding their horns here. I believe there will be a dramatic improvement in the noise levels. The new BNSF terminal superintendent here is a good guy and, unlike his predecessors, I believe he will diligently control the engineers to keep them from unnecessarily sounding their horns.  He is going to have the engineers who blow their horns in any of the Quiet Zones file a report on why they had to blow the horn. That report will file in BNSF's home office and it will soon become clear just who the offending engineers are. I do not believe BNSF in the past has required the engineers who blow the horns in Quiet Zones to have to actually file a report. This ought to be quite effective in eliminating unnecessary honks. I am very optimist that we will all finally have some peace and quiet here in the Point.  Thanks again to those who got this done.
Bob White

December 26, 2006: Belated Christmas Present for Point Richmond - Peace & Quiet

Use of train horns will cease at 12:01 a.m. on December 28, 2006, in the West 2 Quiet Zone, which includes three crossings in Point Richmond; Garrard Boulevard, West Cutting Boulevard and Canal Boulevard. The West 1 Quiet Zone, which includes only the West Richmond Avenue grade crossing, is already in place.

The North Quiet Zone, near Parchester Village was the first to be established in Richmond, and the City is working with San Pablo to add the John Avenue crossing to eliminate remaining horns in the area.

The South Quiet Zone in Marina Bay will be next to be implemented but requires some grade crossing improvements to qualify. These improvements are being put in place by the Public Works Department.

For additional information, contact:
Carlos A. Privat
Assistant City Attorney
City of Richmond
1401 Marina Way South
Richmond, CA 94804
510.620.6509 (Office)
510.620.6518 (Fax)
Email: Carlos_Privat@ci.richmond.ca.us

Report Train Horn Incidents for Point Richmond Quiet Zones >>

See the NOTICE OF QUIET ZONE ESTABLISHMENT document (Acrobat .PDF)

Councilmember Tom Butt


July 15, 2006:

The second Railroad Quiet Zone in Richmond, West One Quiet Zone, goes into effect today, July 15, 2006. This is the West Richmond Avenue grade crossing in Point Richmond.

Under the Quiet Zone rules, BNSF can no longer sound a horn as a warning before crossing West Richmond Avenue. They can, however, still use the horn within their yard to signal start ups from a stopped position (two longs for forward and three shorts for backward)

The first Richmond Quiet Zone, North Quiet Zone, went into effect at the grade crossings at Giant Road and Atlas Road in February of 2006. Previous experience with BNSF indicates that they will observe the Quiet Zone grudgingly at best, and it will be up to the public to hold their feet to the fire by scrupulously reporting violations.

Use the Train Horn Violation Report Form to report Quiet Zone violations. The form can also be used to report trains that are blocking West Richmond Avenue during prohibited times (11:30 a.m. to 1:00 p.m. and between 5:00 p.m. to 6:00 p.m.) and trains that block the West Richmond Avenue crossing in excess of 10 minutes. Both of these are prohibited.

The Quiet Zone does not yet cover grade crossings at Garrard, Cutting or Canal, although it is anticipated that these (West Two Quiet Zone) will go into effect later this year.

The establishment of Quiet Zones has been a long an arduous task, fought tooth and nail by BNSF and with little help from the Federal Railroad Administration, which is supposed to enforce the Quiet Zones. Thanks goes to the dogged determination of Assistant City Attorney Wayne Nishioka, City Engineer Rich Davidson and to the Quiet Zone Volunteer Team, Cochise Potts, Fred Arm, Louis Hagler and Terry Goode.

Councilmember Tom Butt


June 16, 2006:

"Attention all disturbed residents from train noise:

"Please take notice that the Quiet Zone in Point Richmond will take effect on July 15, 2006. 
This is for the Richmond Ave. crossing only.  Garrard, Cutting, and Canal are not far behind. 
What this means is that  as of 12:01 AM  on July 15, 200, train horns will be forbidden by federal law from sounding their horns at this crossing, barring any last minute obstructions from the railroads, the Federal Railroad Administration, the California Public Utilities Commission, or any of the multitude of other agencies who are involved.  The horns will still continue to sound at Garrard, Cutting, and Canal. 

"Our working group, H.O.R.N., continues to nibble away at the various issues that surround the proposed Quiet Zones at Point Richmond on Garrard, Cutting, and Canal, and in the Marina area.  I hope to be able to send a message like this one in the near future, informing you that Quiet Zones have been established in these areas as well.

"Go to the proposed horn violation form that we would ask each of you to report any violations by the railroads of the Quiet Zone and any horn blowing that violates the Federal restriction of two long, one short, and one long blast of the horn.  The horn shall begin to be sounded at least 15 seconds before the train enters the crossing and cease upon entering the crossing.

"Congratulations!!"

Fred Arm


TRAIN HORNS and QUIET ZONES
Louis Hagler

We are working on quiet zones for Point Richmond and the Marina Bay area. 
    Our City Attorney is walking the fine line, keeping the Federal Railroad Administration (FRA) and the California Public Utilities Commission happy, since both have a say in what we do. 
   We continue to make slow and steady progress and I am confident that quiet zones will emerge in the two areas in the not too distant future.  It is not possible to predict a date with any degree of certainty, because, after we satisfy everyone else, the railroads can always throw a wrench in the works.  They have already tried and failed - -since they objected to the creation of quiet zones in north Richmond.   
   The FRA has put the railroads on notice that compliance is not optional or voluntary - - either they observe the quiet zone or face the possibility of fines and other sanctions that will be imposed by the federal government.


TRAIN HORN INCIDENT REPORT: Please complete a report for each separate time period of horn sounding even ifoccurring on the same day. Download the printable Horn Incident Report


TRAIN HORNS AND LONG TRAINS
Tom Butt

Like phases of the moon, the intensity of train horns in Richmond seems to wax and wane in response to some mysterious force of nature. Over the last several days, horns of the BNSF operation, particularly in the pre-dawn hours, are definitely on the upswing. We have become used to an occasional train horn at night, but those multiple blasts ending in 10 second uninterrupted encores will roust those of us protected by even the most dedicated rack monsters.

This is an update of where we are in Richmond with respect to train horns and long trains.

QUIET ZONES

On April 13, 2004, the Richmond City Council unanimously passed Resolution 62-04 directing the city manager and city attorney to initiate an application for a Quiet Zone throughout the City of Richmond.

On January 25, 2005, Assistant City Attorney Wayne Nishioka made a report to the City Council, attached to this email as a PDF file, on progress toward establishing Quiet Zones in Richmond pursuant to The Federal Railroad Administration Interim Final Rule on the Use of Locomotive Horns at Highway-Rail Grade Crossings, which can be found at http://www.fra.dot.gov/us/content/1318.

In short, the Federal Railroad Administration Interim Final Rule on the Use of Locomotive Horns at Highway-Rail Grade Crossings provides: “New Quiet Zones may be created if: (1) All public crossings are equipped with flashing lights and gates; and either– (2) After adjusting for increased risk created by silencing the train horn, the average risk at the crossings is less than the national average for gated crossings where the train horn sounds (National Significant Risk Threshold or “NSRT”); or

Safety improvements are made that reduce the risk to a level either less than the NSRT or a level that compensates for loss of the train horn as a warning device.”

In his report, Nishioka wrote: “The federal government postponed finalizing its rules on Quiet Zones until April 2005. Notwithstanding the postponement of the final rules, the staff continues to take the steps necessary in anticipation of the implementation of Quiet Zones in Richmond. One the rules are finalized and once staff has been able to complete all the required prerequisite steps, the Council will be asked to look at the policy recommendations and fiscal impacts of having Quiet Zones.”

Nishioka recommends three Quiet Zones, North Area (John, Griffin, Atlas and Giant), West Area (Point Richmond area) and South Area (Marina Bay area). Nishioka has laid a good foundation, and I intend to push for being ready to go on April 1 rather than waiting until then to start preparing an application.

LONG TRAINS

There are two solutions to long trains. The simpler, quicker and cheaper solution is for BNSF to move their traffic to the Port of Oakland over Union Pacific (UP) lines in the Richmond area instead of through south Richmond. They already use theses lines east of Martinez. According to BNSF sources, UP is blocking the switchover. The Federal Surface Transportation Board has some powers that can persuade UP to cooperate. The good news is that the Richmond City Council passed Resolution 62-04 directing the city manager and city attorney to file a Petition for Declaratory Order with the Surface Transportation Board requesting that the Board compel UP and BNSF to share tracks in a way that will eliminate the passage of long, through trains through south Richmond. The Contra Costa County Board of Supervisors passed Resolution 2003-196 that is similar. The bad news is that neither the city manager nor the city attorney has taken any action.

Resolution 62-04 also directed the city manager and city attorney to file a Petition for Declaratory Order with the Surface Transportation Board requesting that the Board compel UP and BNSF to share tracks in a way that will eliminate the passage of long, through trains through south Richmond. The Contra Costa County Board of Supervisors passed Resolution 2003-196 that is similar. The bad news is that neither the city manager nor the city attorney has taken any action.

At the February 1 City Council meeting, the Redevelopment Agency was authorized to issue an RFP for a feasibility study to construct a grade separation in the Marina Bay area and to further explore the “Richmond Field Station bypass” to alleviate the frequent and lengthy train blockages.

I have placed an item on the February 8 agenda requesting similar authority to expand the study to the Parchester Village area. On February 15, I will once again ask the City Council to direct the city manager and city attorney to act on direction given in Resolution 62-04 to file a Petition for Declaratory Order with the Surface Transportation Board.

Contacts

To complain to BNSF, file an online complaint at http://www.bnsf.com/business/html/complaint_form.html. One resident got a call back within 30 minutes. Call John Shurson 909/386-4470, Juan Acosta 916/448-4086, Doug Werner 817/352-2363 or Ronnie Russell 209/460-6205

  • To complain to Richmond Pacific, call John Cockle at 510/307-4075, Mike McCoy 510/307-4009 or Jim Cannon 510/307-4020, email jimc@levinterminal.com.
  • To complain to UP, call Paul Schmidt 510/891-7566 or Wayne Horiuchi 916/442-2800
  • For the Federal Railroad Administration, call Charlie Hagood  559/641-7649

For the California Public Utility Commission, call George Elsmore 415/703-2665 or Don Edmisten 415/703-1592

  • For Richmond residents interested in starting an organization to deal with train problems, call Louis Hagler, Marina Bay resident, 510/215-9588 and Terry J. Goode Country Club Vista resident. 510/222-4510
  • For the Richmond City Attorney, call Everett Jenkins at 510/620-6509, everett_jenkins@ci.richmond.ca.us

Documentation

Following are several documents and hyperlinks that have information related to the forgoing summary:

Excerpt from Minutes of Richmond City Council Meeting April 13, 2004

A proposed resolution authorizing the City of Richmond to work with the Surface Transportation Board to establish “Quiet Zones” and elimination of long through trains routed through South Richmond was presented. There were no questions from the audience. On motion of Councilmember Butt, seconded by Councilmember Penn, adopted Resolution No. 62-04 by the unanimous vote of the Council.

Resolution 62-04, April 13, 2004

RESOLUTION OF THE CITY COUNCIL OF THE CITY OF RICHMOND, CALIFORNIA, DIRECTING  ACTIONS TO MITIGATE LONG TRAINS AND TRAIN HORN USE

WHEREAS, the frequent sounding of train horns at dozens of Richmond grade crossings has become a serious disturbance to residents as well as a public health concern; and

WHEREAS, In response to a Congressional legislative mandate, the Federal Railroad Administration (FRA) has issued an Interim Final Rule for the Use of Locomotive Horns at Highway-Rail Crossings. The rule requires that locomotive horns be sounded as a warning to highway users at public highway-rail crossings. In accordance with a legislative requirement, the rule will not take effect until one year following the date of its publication on December 18, 2003. Until December 18, 2004, the sounding of the locomotive horns at crossings will remain subject to applicable State and local laws; and

WHEREAS, the rule also provides an opportunity, not available until now, for thousands of localities nationwide to mitigate the effects of train horn noise by establishing new "quiet zones;” and,

WHEREAS, communities seeking to establish New Quiet Zones are encouraged to thoroughly investigate the options available to them under the rule. FRA will be working with public authorities and reviewing applications for quiet zones in order to permit communities to institute quiet zones at the earliest possible date after the one-year required period has elapsed. Accordingly, FRA will accept quiet zone applications from public authorities during the one-year period commencing with publication of the rule.

WHEREAS, the FRA has an extensive website at http://www.fra.dot.gov/Content3.asp?P=1318 that describes how to evaluate and apply for Quiet Zone Designation; and,

WHEREAS, BNSF has offered to help the City of Richmond find funding sources for Quiet Zone improvements; and,

WHEREAS, the frequent blockage of grade crossings by mile-long BNSF trains coming and going from the Port of Oakland has become not only a severe aggravation for Richmond residents but is also a substantial public safety concern; and,

WHEREAS, one solution to the long train problem would be for BNSF to route long trains onto UP tracks further north in the vicinity of Martinez instead of at the Stege “Y,” but, according to BNSF sources, UP will not allow this; and

WHEREAS, the Surface Transportation Board (http://www.stb.dot.gov/index.htm) has the authority to intervene in such issues and to motivate or compel the railroad companies to cooperate for the greater good of the public.

THEREFORE, BE IT RESOLVED that The Richmond City Council directs that the City Manager and the City Attorney initiate an application for a Quiet Zone or Quiet Zones in Richmond in the areas of Point Richmond, Atchison Village, Marina Bay, Santa Fe, the Iron Triangle, Parchester Village, Country Club Estates, Richmore Village, and other neighborhoods adversely affected by train horns, and

THEREFORE BE IT FURTHER RESOLVED that the City Manager and the City Attorney file a Petition for Declaratory Order with the Surface Transportation Board requesting that the Board compel UP and BNSF to share tracks in a  way that will eliminate the passage of long, through trains through south Richmond.

Minutes of May 20, 2003, City Council Meeting

In the matter to consider adopting a resolution establishing a Railroad “Quiet Zone” and seeking limits on the amount of time that a Grade Crossing can be blocked by a train. Diane Holmes, City Clerk, stated for the record that Terry Good filed a petition, on behalf of the homeowners in the Country Club Vista community in support of the matter. Vice Mayor Penn stated that the matter has been before the Public Safety Public Services Standing Committee and is being brought forward to direct staff to proceed with the fact finding in order to perform due diligence to resolve the matter. Councilmember Butt commented that he received a similar resolution passed by the Contra Costa Board of Supervisors from Supervisor Gioia addressing the blockage problem. The County Counsel’s office has agreed to work with Richmond’s City Attorney; and in the first “Whereas” he asked that the following be added regarding the noise problem: “the South part of Richmond, Country Club Vista, Parchester Village, and Atlas Road areas.” Following discussion, on motion of Councilmember Butt, seconded by Councilmember Griffin, adopted Resolution No. 70-03 establishing a Railroad “Quiet Zone” and seeking limits on the amount of time that a Grade Crossing can be blocked by a train, by the unanimous vote of the Council.

Resolution 70-03, May 20, 2003

RESOLUTION OF THE CITY COUNCIL OF THE CITY OF RICHMOND, CALIFORNIA REGARDING PETITION TO ESTABLISH A RAILROAD “QUIET ZONE” AND TO SEEK LIMITS ON TIME A GRADE CROSSING CAN BE BLOCKED BY TRAIN

WHEREAS, In the south part of Richmond, long trains moving in a single direction often block grade crossings for extended periods of time longer than 10 minutes, and

WHEREAS such blockages are a public safety hazard in that they impede the passage of public safety vehicles, and they are a nuisance and a cost to the public, causing delays in deliveries of goods and services and causing people to be late to work and to appointments, and

WHEREAS, California Public Utility Commission (PUC) General Order 135 limits blockages of grade crossings to not more than 10 minutes only when trains are stopped or engaged in switching operations. However, paragraph 9 of General Order 135 allows cities to apply to the PUC for a variance from or different regulations than those in General Order 135 (See http://www.cpuc.ca.gov/PUBLISHED/Graphics/592.PDF), and

WHEREAS, trains are required by state and federal law to sound their horns at all public right-of-way grade crossings, and

WHEREAS, trains sounding horns during slow movements, including switching operations, at grade crossings during nights in south Richmond near residential areas, including at the Richmond Parkway (east leg), Garrard Boulevard, Cutting Boulevard, Canal Boulevard, Harbour Way, Marina Way, Marina Bay Parkway and Regatta Boulevard, have deleterious health effects, including loss of productivity due to poor concentration, fatigue due to loss of sleep, increased health care costs related to loss of sleep and stress, loss of psychological well-being and lowered property values, and

WHEREAS, the Federal Railroad Administration (FRA) is in the process of adopting a new rule that will allow the establishment of “quiet zones,” (see http://www.fra.dot.gov/rdv/horns/fact.htm) and

WHEREAS, cities around the United States , including Valencia, California, have already been successful in establishing “quiet zones (See http://www.mayocommunications.com/PR77%20Placentia%20Quiet%20zone%2011-21-02.htm and

http://www.cpuc.ca.gov/PUBLISHED/AGENDA_DECISION/20565-01.htm#TopOfPage);

THEREFORE BE IT RESOLVED, that the City Council of the City of Richmond directs the city attorney to research the most potentially promising way to compel regulation of railroads to observe a 10-minute or less blockage of grade crossings when trains are moving in a single direction, including an application to the PUC, and to initiate such action as soon as possible, and

THEREFORE BE IT ALSO RESOLVED that the City Council of the City of Richmond directs the city attorney to research what other cities have done to create “quiet zones” and to initiate action as soon as possible to create a “quiet zone” in south Richmond.

Proposed Amendment to Richmond Noise Ordinance

9.52.040 Application.

(a) The provisions of this chapter shall apply generally to all property throughout the City wherein any of the conditions, hereinafter specified, are found to exist, except that the provisions of this chapter shall not apply to:

1) the emission of sound for the purpose of alerting persons to the existence of an emergency;

2) the emission of sound in the performance of emergency work; and

3) the emission of sound by warning devices necessary for the protection of public safety, as, for example, police, fire, ambulance, and hazardous materials emergency response sirens, and train horns or whistles.

Train horns or whistles shall be exempt only to the extent that state or federal law requires their use and such use is strictly limited to federal or state requirements, including, but not limited to, the sound level and the pattern or frequency of use. Train horns or whistles may also be used as required by the General Code of Operating Rules adopted by railroad operating companies with the provision that alternate means of signaling for movements within railroad rights of way or rail yards where storing, cleaning, maintaining, linking and unlinking of engines and/or rail cars to each other takes place and where the general public is not routinely expected to be present or when persons or livestock or on or near the track are allowed by the General Code of Operating Rules, such alternate means shall be used.

(b) The provisions of this chapter are to be supplementary and complementary to all of the provisions of this Code, State law, and any law cognizable at common law or in equity, and nothing herein shall be read, interpreted or construed in any manner so as to limit any existing right or power of the City of Richmond to abate any and all nuisances.

 The General Code of Operating Rules, which is neither State nor Federal law, but is a voluntary industry standard, can be found at http://www.sdrm.org/faqs/rulebook/title.html.   . Section 5.8.2, Sounding Whistle, can be found at http://www.sdrm.org/faqs/rulebook/signals.html#5.8. It includes signals for various train movements and notes that “The radio may be used in place of whistle signals, except signals (1) and (11).” Signal (1) is for “Use when an emergency exists, or persons or livestock are on the track. When crews on other trains hear this signal, they must stop until it is safe to proceed.” Signal (11) is for “Approaching public crossings at grade with engine in front, start signal not less than ¼ mile before reaching crossing, if distance permits. If distance does not permit, start signal soon enough before the crossing to provide warning. Prolong or repeat signal until engine occupies the crossing. Use this signal to warn employees when view is restricted.” Signal (11) does not apply because both State and Federal Law require signaling at grade crossings.

Additional Information, see TOM BUTT E-FORUM, Fried Baloney at the Whistle Stop Café, April 4, 2004, including attachments.

WANT TO RECEIVE TOM BUTT E-FORUM AND OTHER ACTION ALERTS ON RICHMOND POLITICAL AND COMMUNITY ISSUES DELIVERED TO YOUR EMAIL ADDRESS? EMAIL YOUR NAME AND EMAIL ADDRESS AND/OR THE NAMES AND EMAIL ADDRESSES OF OTHERS WHO WOULD LIKE TO BE PLACED ON THE MAILING LIST AND THE MESSAGE "SUBSCRIBE" TO TOM.BUTT@INTRES.COM - COMMENTS, ARGUMENTS AND CORRECTIONS ARE WELCOME.  TOM BUTT IS A MEMBER OF THE RICHMOND CITY COUNCIL .  WHEN OPINIONS AND VIEWS EXPRESSED, WITHOUT OTHER ATTRIBUTION, IN TOM BUTT E-FORUM, THEY ARE THOSE OF TOM BUTT AND DO NOT REFLECT OFFICIAL VIEWS OR POSITIONS OF THE CITY OF RICHMOND OR THE RICHMOND CITY COUNCIL UNLESS OTHERWISE NOTED. VISIT THE TOM BUTT WEBSITE FOR ADDITIONAL INFORMATION ABOUT TOM BUTT'S ACTIVITIES ON THE RICHMOND CITY COUNCIL: WWW.TOMBUTT.COM PHONE 510/236-7435 OR 510/237-2084