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Public Works

Understanding Railroad Quiet Zones

Understanding Clinton's railroad quiet zone. A quiet zone is a stretch of at least a mile and a half that may have several public grade crossings at which train horns are not routinely sounded. Quiet zones do not preclude the engineer from sounding the horn as they deem necessary.

Clinton has a Railroad Quiet Zone - Here are 5 Things You Need to Know

Through the years, Clinton residents have expressed their displeasure at the continued sounding of train horns at railroad crossings. The railroad quiet zone that Clinton has is frequently misunderstood for trains not being able to blow their horns at all, specifically throughout the night. This is a common misconception about a quiet zone so here’s what it means as well as some other information on railroad quiet zones:

-      A quiet zone is an exemption from FRA rules which requires a train to sound it’s horn as it approaches a crossing. A quiet zone is a stretch of at least a mile and a half that may have several public grade crossings at which train horns are not routinely sounded.

While this is the definition for a quiet zone, there is a lot more to it.

-      Trains must sound their horns if something is on the tracks or they are transporting dangerous cargo, regardless of the quiet zone.

-      Trains must be permitted to sound the horn if a car, human, animal, or other objects are on the tracks.

This is the case because local governments can make no ordinance that would interfere or contradict with federal law.

-      The railroad quiet zone is an agreement that the City of Clinton made with the railroad. Due to federal regulations made by the Federal Railroad Administration (FRA), trains running through the city have to abide by the federal laws regarding the train horn.

In order to establish a quiet zone, the City takes steps to limit the incursion of vehicles and persons at rail crossings when a train is present. Upgrades to crossings are made at the expense of the the City, with the approval of the railroad that owns the tracks. Tools used to limit incursions are

-      upgraded crossing arms, ballards and islands that prevent vehicles from driving around the gates as well as closing off some crossings to traffic

-      These tools are meant to protect the public, while limiting the need for horns to sound.