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Quiet Zone Implementation


In October 2007, the RTD Board adopted the Responsible Rail Amendment that includes a provision calling for RTD to work with railroads and local communities to address the noise concerns of residents along the Northwest Rail Line. This includes assisting the communities in the Quiet Zone application process and finding all possible funding sources to cover costs associated with implementing them along the Northwest Rail Line. In March 2008, the RTD FasTracks team met with representatives of the Northwest Rail communities to begin the process.

What is a Quiet Zone and how can my community qualify for one?
Quiet Zones are sections of the railroad corridor where train crews don't have to sound the horn at railroad crossings. Communities can qualify for Quiet Zone status if the crossing meets minimum safety requirements. These requirements are outlined in the Department of Transportation Federal Railroad Administration Final Rule 49 CFR, Parts 222 and 229, as it pertains to Quiet Zone designation. It should be noted that train crews are still permitted to sound the horn within a Quiet Zone for railroad or safety reasons.

What is needed to create a Quiet Zone?
To establish a Quiet Zone, all crossings must have physical safety improvements that compensate for the loss of the train horn as a warning device. For this reason, all crossings must have - at a minimum - advance warning devices with both flashing lights and crossing gates.  Additional safety measures may be required at each crossing. These are determined during an on-site analysis of each crossing.

How much does it cost?
There are 45 public and private grade crossings along the Northwest Rail Line. The cost to create a Quiet Zone depends on the existing infrastructure at each crossing and how much infrastructure improvement is needed at each one to meet the minimum safety requirements. The upgrade requirements will also be based on the unique conditions at each crossing, such as traffic volumes and the number of vehicle lanes at the crossing. The average cost of implementing a Quiet Zone crossing "from scratch" can range from $300,000 to $500,000. However, because each crossing is unique, the total cost to implement a Quiet Zone in a specific location will vary.

How will RTD help establish a Quiet Zone? 
RTD will help the Northwest Rail communities establish a Quiet Zone in several ways:
  • RTD will develop grade crossing inventories, diagnostic reviews, and cost estimates for all crossings along the Northwest Rail Line.
  • RTD will work with local communities to determine a Quiet Zone implementation approach for each individual railroad crossing.
  • RTD will coordinate the Quiet Zone application process with the Northwest Rail communities.
The federal process requires cities and counties to file the Quiet Zone application. By federal regulation, RTD cannot apply for one.

What will RTD fund?
RTD will pay for the following elements to address the impacts associated with running commuter rail service along the Northwest Rail Line:
  • RTD has budgeted approximately $300,000 per crossing for safety upgrades and approximately $15 million for overall noise mitigation for the Northwest Rail Line.
  • For grade crossings that meet the federal criteria for noise mitigation, RTD will pay for 100 percent of the upgrades necessary to qualify a crossing for Quiet Zone status.
  • For grade crossings that do not meet the federal criteria for noise mitigation, RTD will still fund the required safety upgrades; however, local jurisdictions would need to fund any additional crossing infrastructure upgrades that would be required to meet quiet zone status.
RTD will develop the cost estimates for the infrastructure improvements - those needed for safety upgrades and noise mitigation associated with the Northwest Rail and those needed to meet Quiet Zone standards - in the fourth quarter of 2008. These estimates will serve as the basis for discussions between RTD and the Northwest Rail communities in early 2009. 

What is the Quiet Zone Work Plan?
RTD has developed a Quiet Zone Work Plan to help the Northwest Rail communities, and local governments in other FasTracks projects, establish Quiet Zones. It identifies the steps that RTD will take to assist with the Quiet Zone application process and a timeframe for them.

When would Quiet Zones be in place? 
If a Quiet Zone is approved for the Northwest Rail Line, the necessary infrastructure would be built in time for the opening day of commuter rail service in 2015. The Quiet Zone implementation process will occur over the next several years and will coincide with the planning, design and construction of the project.

What is the Quiet Zone decision-making process?
To show how RTD and the Northwest Rail Line communities will work together and make decisions about Quiet Zone implementation, we have developed a "Quiet Zone Decision Tree" for the Northwest Rail Line.

Additional Resources:
Northwest Rail Line Quiet Zone Decision Tree
Northwest Rail Line Grade Crossings (Coming Soon!)
RTD FasTracks Train Horns at Grade Crossings Fact Sheet
RTD Responsible Rail Amendment
RTD Quiet Zone Work Plan
Federal Railroad Administration - Rule on the use of train horns at grade crossings
US Department of Transportation - Quick Facts: The Train Horn Final Rule


 
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