To stop blaring train horns from waking San Jose residents at night, a “quiet zone” proposed by city leaders could be created as early as November.
According to San Jose Councilmember Raul Peralez, the city submitted a Notice of Intent to designate a partial quiet zone around crossings from Horning Street to North Montgomery Street from 10 p.m. to 7 a.m.
The city submitted the notice July 30 to Union Pacific Railroad and national and local transportation agencies such as the Federal Railroad Administration and Caltrans.
Residents and other interested parties can share their opinions during a 60-day comment period before the Quiet Zone is established, which could be as early as November.
“Over the last 1.5 years our residents have suffered greatly from sleep deprivation,” Peralez said. “And establishment of this Partial Quiet Zone will finally restore the quality of life for residents along the (Union Pacific Railroad) corridor.”
The effort to silence trains late at night moves ahead after a feasibility study released July 15 determined the city could designate a Partial Quiet Zone to reduce noise without introducing risk greater than the average level at crossings across the country.
According to the study, the risk the corridor poses to cars without trains sounding their horns could increase in the future because of higher traffic. If it spikes beyond the national average level of risk, the Federal Railroad Administration will terminate the quiet zone within six months.
The sounds of silence
Ever since Union Pacific Railroad last year increased rail service to run through downtown late at night, San Jose residents have voiced complaints about the noise. A Change.org petition protesting the loud horns in historic San Jose from 10 p.m. to 4 a.m. has garnered more than 1,000 signatures.
Because no quiet zone currently affects Union Pacific Railroad’s Warm Springs Subdivision, federal law requires train crews to blow the horn as they approach several crossings in the corridor.
Tim McMahan, a spokesman for Union Pacific Railroad, said federal regulations requiring train crews to blow their horns are for everyone’s safety, but it is up to public authorities to use the Quiet Zone option.
“We are encouraged by the City of San Jose’s commitment to study a quiet zone in the area and will continue to work in partnership with city representatives on this solution,” he said.
A statement on Union Pacific Railroad’s website states that it does not endorse quiet zones and believes they “compromise the safety of railroad employees, customers and the general public.”
Although the designation may resolve the problem, local lawmakers have considered more drastic measures over the past few months.
In May, the mayor’s office and Councilmembers Sergio Jimenez, Raul Peralez, Dev Davis and Maya Esparza signed on to explore filing a lawsuit alleging the railroad was a nuisance and had violated the National Environmental Policy Act by not cleaning graffiti.
But in Thursday’s statement, Peralez said a quiet zone is “the only tool the city could implement” to silence the noise.
Contact John Bricker at email@example.com or follow him @JohnMichaelBr15 on Twitter.