Petition for Railroad ‘Quiet Zones’ in Northern Emeryville Sparks Resident Debate
The City of Emeryville and our Mayor are circulating a petition to apply for grant money to create three “quiet zones” at the 65th, 66th and 67th railway crossings.
The petition, linked in multiple Nextdoor posts and John Bauters’ personal blog, has ignited a debate among neighbors who are supportive of reducing the horn noise that they find disruptive — and those that enjoy the ambiance the trains bring or are critical of the cost and priority of the estimated $10-12 million project.
The Federal Railway Administration (FRA) implemented safety regulations in 2005 that require locomotive horns be sounded for a minimum of 15 seconds in advance of all public highway-rail crossings. The horns are required to fall within a decibel range of 90-110 db. The FRA also provided local communities like ours with the option of circumventing these regulations by establishing ‘quiet zone’ crossings.
The city first undertook the issue in 2008 but the cost put the project on pause. The city revisited the issue at a Transportation Project study session at the December 19, 2017 council meeting [1:27:29 in the below YouTube video].
Examples outlined of additional safety engineering improvements necessary to reduce the risk of collisions include:
- Medians on one or both sides of the tracks
- Four quadrant gate system
- Pedestrian facilities, with railings and gate system
- Permanent closure of the crossing(s) at 66th and/or 67th to vehicular traffic
The estimated cost to make the three railroad crossings eligible for this quiet zone status could be as high as $12 million according to the petition circulated by Bauters. Some of the grant money would come from the California SB1 Road Repair and Accountability Act of 2017.
Supporters of the project think Emeryville needs to move past its industrial roots and become more of a residential community. “With the changing nature of the city, now much more family friendly, along with the new buildings reflecting the noise, it is time to mitigate it as much as possible,” noted a resident who identified himself as Joe. “Additionally, when temperature inversion happens, the horn noise can be extremely disturbing over long distances.”
More skeptical residents cited the necessity of the horns as a safety feature, the exorbitant cost and fondness for the ambiance a train brings. “I guess I am a romantic, but they move me.” commented Jenny who identified herself as a North Oakland neighbor.” Some seemed to be irked that this was even a priority for the city in light of rampant crime and homelessness. “People moved into all of those apartments and condos knowing that the train was just feet away. I don’t have great gobs of sympathy.” noted a resident who identified herself as Jenelle.
The timing of the project coincides with a recent incident on January 10th where a man was struck by a Capital Corridor commuter train near the Emeryville Amtrak Station but miraculously survived. Opponents of the initiative, at least on Nextdoor, seemed to vastly outweigh supporters although proximity to the railway seemed to be a large factor.
The preconstruction phases of this project will be funded through local sources, utilizing existing transportation accounts according to City of Emeryville Senior Civil Engineer Ryan O’Connell. “The City is asking as part of this grant for $6.0 Million in funding for the Construction Phase of this project. Generally, this would entail the construction of Supplemental Safety Measures (SSM’s) at the three at-grade crossing in our City.”
Mayor Bauters clarified that the $10-12 million price tag came from a recent ACTC committee meeting and may include a crossing across the Berkeley border that the City of Berkeley may apply for.
If you would like to add your name to the community letter, send an email to City of Emeryville Senior Civil Engineer Ryan O’Connell no later than noon on Thursday, January 25th that includes:
- Your name and any adults in your household who wish to be added to the letter
- Indicate whether you’re a resident or business owner
- Your Emeryville address
The letter will only list your name and resident/business designation.
The grant awards from the state are expected to be announced by mid-late summer 2018. Funding will not come online until the following year if our application is successful.