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Train Horn Rule - Quiet Zones

Regulation

Who Regulates the Use of Train Horns?
The Federal Railroad Administration (FRA) train horn rule provides local agencies the opportunity to establish quiet zones. Although the federal rule pre-empts local ordinances and state laws regarding the sounding of train horns, Oregon laws and regulations relating to the safety of railroad-highway crossings remain in full effect.

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Quiet Zones

What is a Quiet Zone?
A quiet zone consists of railroad grade crossing(s) where trains are prohibited from sounding their horns. The train horns can be silenced only when other safety measures compensate for the absence of the horns.

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Quiet Zone Requirements

A new quiet zone must be a minimum of ½ mile in length and have at least one public grade crossing. Every public grade crossing used by motor vehicles must be equipped with flashing-light signals and automatic gates in a quiet zone. Local agencies must work with FRA, the affected railroad company(s) and ODOT Rail Division to form a diagnostic team to assess the risk of a train-vehicle collision at each grade crossing where they want to silence train horns. An objective determination is made by the team concerning where and what type of engineered, supplemental safety improvements are needed to reduce the risk associated with silencing train horns. The diagnostic team reviews highway traffic volumes, train traffic volumes, the history of prior train-vehicle collisions, and the physical characteristics of the crossing(s), including existing safety devices. Examples of engineered, supplemental safety improvements that may be necessary to reduce the risk of train-vehicle collisions include:
  • permanent closure of the crossing to vehicle traffic;
  • raised medians on one both sides of the railroad tracks to prevent motorists from driving around lowered crossing gates;
  • converting two-way streets to one-way travel;
  • installation of 4 quadrant gates.
The use of wayside horns, in lieu of train horns, may also be evaluated as an option to train horns.
The supplemental safety measures must be authorized by ODOT Rail Division in a crossing Order. Unless one or more public grade crossings are permanently closed to motor vehicles, the ordered improvements must be constructed at the local agency’s own expense.

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Additional Information

For more information, visit the FRA train horn rule Web page.

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