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Whistle Noise and Crossing Blockages

Train Blocking Crossing and Crossing Gate Malfunctions

Blocked crossings can be reported to the Federal Railroad Administration online.

The State of Oregon does not have authority over public crossings that are blocked by trains. A 2009 Oregon Court of Appeals ruling determined that federal law prohibits the State from regulating the length of time a train may block a public highway-rail crossing.

The Federal Railroad Administration (FRA) requires signage to be installed at all highway-rail crossings. These signs provide information necessary for road users to notify the railroad company about blockages or malfunctioning traffic control devices. Each sign has the emergency contact information for the appropriate railroad and the crossing number (see example below). The railroad will need the crossing number to identify the location of the problem.

Please use this information to contact the railroad company directly with concerns about crossing issues.

Sample Railroad Emergency Notification Sign 

If a blue sign is not at a crossing, please call the FRA Region 8 Office at 360-696-7536.

Train Whistle Noise

Why Do Trains Sound Their Horns?

Trains sound horns or whistles before crossings as a universal safety precaution for the traveling public. Railroad engineers are required by federal law to sound a horn or whistle at every public railroad/highway crossing, unless a Quiet Zone has been authorized. There is no requirement for railroad engineers to sound a horn or whistle at public railroad/pedestrian crossings or private crossings.

For more information read the Train Horn Rule.

Quiet Zone

The Federal Railroad Administration (FRA) requires railroad engineers to begin sounding the train horn at least 15 seconds, and not more than 20 seconds in advance of all public at-grade railroad/highway crossings. A Quiet Zone is one or more crossings in a corridor where the FRA has authorized the railroad to discontinue the regular sounding of the train horn at the public crossing in that corridor. The engineers are still authorized to sound the horn in instances where they consider it an emergency. At a minimum, every at-grade crossing in a Quiet Zone must be equipped with train activated flashing light signals and automatic gates.

To receive authorization for a Quiet Zone the Government Agency responsible for the road that crosses the tracks must submit an application to the FRA. The FRA will then work with the road authority to help put together a diagnostic team consisting of representatives from the FRA, the road authority(ies), the railroad(s), and ODOT Rail and Public Transit Division. The diagnostic team will investigate and review the crossings in the proposed Quiet Zone corridor and determine what improvements, if any, need to be implemented at each crossing. The Government Agency requesting the Quiet Zone is typically responsible for funding all improvements required. The improvements will need to be completed before the FRA will authorize the Quiet Zone.

Citizens who wish to have a quiet zone established should contact their local Government Agency.

For more information read the Guide to the Quiet Zone Establishment Process.

Noise Concern Investigation

The Federal Railroad Administration regulates railroad noise. Contact the Administration’s regional office in Vancouver, Washington to report concerns about railroad noise.

Federal Railroad Administration Region 8 Office: 360-696-7536
Bicyclist waiting at a flashing railroad crossing

Contact Us

Oregon Department of Transportation
Commerce and Compliance Division
Rail Regulatory Programs Branch 
455 Airport Road SE, Building A
Salem, OR 97301

Hours of Operation (Pacific Time)
8 a.m. to 5 p.m.
Monday through Friday


Rail Safety Programs

Rail Safety and Compliance Rules
Rail Forms and Publications
State Rail System Maps