- Since railroads first came into existence in the 19th Century, whistles were used as both warnings and signals. Whistles have morphed into 96+ decibel horns, but despite vast advances in technology, the use remains the same.
- What is now known is that the noise from train horns can have severe physiological effects on humans, particularly at night when people are trying to sleep.
- The Train Horn Rule also provides an opportunity for localities nationwide to mitigate the effects of train horn noise by establishing “new quiet zones.” In a quiet zone, railroads are required to cease the routine sounding their horns when approaching public highway-rail grade crossings
- Among the effects of noise during sleep are an increase in heart rate, arousals, changes in the stage of sleep, and awakenings. Night-time noise causes self-reported sleep disturbances, increased use of medication, increase in body movements, and insomnia. Insomnia is a problem in itself; it leads to further adverse consequences for health and well-being, such as fatigue, accidents, and reduced performance.
The Train Horn Rule and Quiet Zones
The Economic Valuation of Train Horn Noise 2006.pdf
Video of a Freight Train thru town....
Let's Quiet the Trains in the evening in Warrensburg!
ELYSSE JAMES | Orange County Register
March 24, 2011 at 1:50 pm
TUSTIN – Trains passing through Tustin’s railroad crossing have silenced their horns.
Nearby Tustin Meadows residents will no longer hear train engineers honk as they pass through Red Hill Avenue near Edinger Avenue, though bells sound when the safety arms are lowered across Red Hill Avenue and a pedestrian walkway.
The quiet zone became effective on Thursday and officials unveiled a “No train horn” sign during a morning ceremony.
“We are very excited about this, as you can imagine,” said Mayor Jerry Amante. Former Mayor Lou Bone began the push to silence train horns in 1997 when he was running for City Council. Tustin Meadows resident Marilyn Jacobs, who has since passed away, told Bone if he would silence the horns, she and her neighbors would vote for him.
“We don’t need to use ear plugs any more, and we can sleep at night,” Bone said.
Mary Lou Berry of Tustin Meadows was holding a sign reading, “Thank you.” On the back she had written, “A little less noise in a very noisy world.” Berry said she could mark the time by when she heard the trains, and that they would wake her up in the morning.
“Oh, I’m so happy about this,” Berry said. “It’s been a long time coming.”
The first quiet zone to go into effect in Orange County was the crossing at Kellogg and Kraemer avenues near Orangethorpe Avenue in August 2007 in Placentia, the Orange County Transportation Authority stated.
In areas that do not have a quiet zone, train engineers are required by federal law to honk in two long bursts, a short burst and a long bust when approaching railroad crossings, according to the Orange County Transportation Authority.“Not only are we the City of Trees, we’re the city that’s quiet enough for you to hear the birds in the trees,” Amante said.
Tustin Meadows resident Sue Robishaw is thrilled. She is looking forward to sleeping through the night without hearing train horns.
“I think we’ll be able to relax in our back yards without the anxiety of when and how long the train horn is going to be,” said Jeanne Sprague of Tustin Meadows. Sprague said she can now open her double-paned windows in warm weather.
Quiet zones went into effect on Feb. 24 at 16 railroad crossings in Orange and four in Anaheim. By the end of the year, construction is expected to be finished for 10 railroad crossings in Anaheim, one in Dana Point, one in Irvine, two in San Clemente, five in San Juan Capistrano and 10 in Santa Ana, Orange County Transportation Authority officials said. Once the construction is complete, the cities can apply for quiet zones.
Four million people a year ride the Metrolink in Orange County, said Orange County Transportation Authority Deputy CEO Darrell Johnson.
Construction began on the Tustin crossing in May 2010 to add the brick median, new signs, additional gate arms, pedestrian warning gates and a pedestrian bridge crossing both sides of Red Hill Avenue. Most of the work was done at night and over the weekend so as not to interrupt traffic, Johnson said.
If the warning devices are not working, construction crews are working along the railroad or there is a person walking along the tracks or an emergency, train engineers will sound the horns.
Cars are required to stop at the “stop here” signs. If the cars have driven closer to the crossing gates the driver can receive a ticket and the train engineer could blow the horn, officials stated.
Residents can report to the city when they hear train horns. Residents should have the date and time of the horn violation, number of times the horn sounded, which direction the train was headed and, if possible, the engine number, the city stated.
An Irvine man was killed when he was hit by a Metrolink train on Thursday, Feb. 24 between the Santa Ana and Tustin train stations. A Santa Ana man was killed on Friday, Feb. 11 when the man appeared to have stepped in front of a train at Red Hill Avenue. Three people died in train accidents at a crossing in Anaheim at La Palma Avenue and Pauline Street over the last year, according to OC Register stories.
Information: Principal Engineer Terry Lutz at 714-573-3263 or firstname.lastname@example.org
Contact the writer: 714-796-7949 or email@example.com
Establishing Quiet Zones:
The final rule also provides an opportunity for localities nationwide to mitigate the effects of train horn noise by establishing “new quiet zones.” “No horn” restriction which may have existed prior to the establishment of the rule may be qualified to be “pre-rule quiet zones”. In a quiet zone, railroads have been directed to cease the routine sounding their horns when approaching public highway-rail grade crossings. Train horns may still be used in emergency situations or to comply with other Federal regulations or railroad operating rules. Localities desiring to establish a quiet zone are first required to mitigate the increased risk caused by the absence of a horn.
Learn how to create a Quiet Zone here. Additional resources on Quiet Zones can be found below.
This is a guest post from Bryant Ficek, PE, PTOE, Vice-President at Spack Consulting. Bryant has extensive experience working with Railroad Crossing Quiet Zones around the United States.
Everyone can visualize a standard railroad crossing. The lights start flashing, the gates start to come down, and the train horn sounds out. Most people don’t think about the crossing and the train whistle unless they happen to live next to a crossing. Then, particularly at night, the train horn can disrupt sleep and create a general livability issue.
The Federal Rail Administration (FRA) started allowing the creation of “quiet zones”. These are crossings where improvements have been made to allow the train to proceed without using the horn, except in emergencies. Many cities have been able to reduce the train horns in their communities through this process.
To be considered for a quiet zone, the crossing must meet these minimum requirements:
Each crossing within the desired quiet zone must have gates, flashing lights, constant warning time devices, and power out indicators.
The quiet zone can include one crossing or multiple crossings, but must be at least ½ mile in total length.
The quiet zone must not have any other non-quiet zone crossings within ¼ mile before the first crossing in the zone or after the last crossing in the zone.
If another crossing is within the ¼ mile minimum distance, the quiet zone must be extended through that adjacent crossing and then be without a non-quiet zone crossing for an additional ¼ mile away.
Typically, additional supplemental safety measures must also be installed to further minimize the risk associated with not blowing the horn. The three basic improvements to reduce the risk include:
Crossing Closure – Closing one or more crossings significantly reduces the safety risk in a rail corridor. If a closure can be done at one crossing, typically fewer other improvements would be needed at the remaining adjacent railroad crossings. The railroads typical first choice of improvement is a closure.
Four-quadrant Gates – Four-quadrant gates provide a gate for the entering and exiting traffic on each side of the street at the railroad crossing. The extra gates for the exiting vehicles prevent motorists from driving around the gates. Four-quadrant gates will likely need additional detection within the gates to prevent a vehicle from being trapped. This detection requires complex agreements between a city and the railroad to define the maintenance and emergency procedures.
Two-quadrant Gates with a Median or Channelizing Device – Using a raised median or other channelizing device on the crossing street, stretching back at least 60 feet (100 feet preferred) from the crossing, also eliminates the possibility of motorists driving around the gates.
Other alternative safety measures may also be considered in consultation with the FRA and the railroad with jurisdiction over the crossing.
To determine if one or more crossings is eligible to become a quiet zone, the crossing(s) must be below certain thresholds. The FRA has an online calculator that assigns a Quiet Zone Risk Indexscore assuming the crossing(s) have been improved with one or more safety features. The Quiet Zone Calculator link is http://safetydata.fra.dot.gov/quiet/login.aspx, however, you must register in order to use it.
The Quiet Zone Risk Index score is then compared to the Nationwide Significant Risk Threshold(an annual average of the calculated risk at all of the public rail grade crossings where train horns are routinely sounded) and the Risk Index with Horns (the average risk for all public rail crossings within the proposed quiet zone when train horns are routinely sounded). If the Quiet Zone Risk Index score is below the thresholds, then the proposed crossing(s) is eligible.
Upgrading one or more crossings to quiet zone status is expensive – typically more than $250,000. Improvements on the road, such as adding a channelizing device, further increase the cost.
There are some limited funding options available, but those are usually reserved for high speed, high risk crossing or for locations where a closure may be a component of the overall improvements. Since the railroad companies don’t view the typical quiet zone as a safety measure, they almost never participate in the cost of the improvements and the requesting city pays for them. For this reason, many agencies choose to implement a quiet zone in conjunction with the crossing road reconstruction where money is already being allocated toward improvements.
An alternative to a full quiet zone is the implementation of wayside horns. The wayside horn is positioned at the crossing and directed down the road. When a train approaches, the wayside horn replaces the train horn and directs the sound down the road. The overall sound is greatly reduced by this focused horn. Gates, flashing lights, the constant warning time device, and the power out indicator must still be a part of an improvement that includes wayside horns though.
There’s an established process that must be followed to designate a crossing(s) as a quiet zone. The first step is examining the proposed quiet zone or zones and determining what’s needed. This is typically a quick process using the calculator, but can also involve discussions with the railroad and government agencies (like state or county road and/or rail departments) to fully determine what improvements may be needed. Based on this preliminary investigation, an engineer’s cost estimate can be prepared for the anticipated improvements. Since the improvements are typically expensive, we recommend going through this first phase with the City Council before a full Quiet Zone study is prepared and submitted to the FRA.
FRA Railroad Safety, The Train Horn Rule and Quiet Zone website http://www.fra.dot.gov/Page/P0104
FRA, How to Create a Quiet Zone http://www.fra.dot.gov/eLib/details/L03055
FRA, Guide to the Quiet Zone Establishment Processhttp://www.fra.dot.gov/eLib/Details/L04781
FRA, Final Rule – Use of Locomotive Horns at Highway-Rail Grade Crossings http://www.fra.dot.gov/eLib/Details/L02809
Health, Safety and Livability Impacts of Train Horn Noise
Compiled for the HAND Neighborhood 1/30/09
Noise is defined in research literature as “unwanted, unpredictable and uncontrollable sound.” The negative effects of loud, uncontrollable noise on people’s health and on the livability of a community are well documented, with some of the major effects listed as follows.
1. Noise interrupts sleep.
Sleep disturbance is one of the most serious effects of environmental noise. World Health Organization guidelines say that for good sleep, sound level should not exceed 30 dB(A) for continuous background noise, and individual noise events should not exceed 45 dB(A). 
While night noise usually the concern, the young, old and infirm often sleep in the day, and day-time noise can be intrusive. Even noises that may not awaken people may disrupt sleep quality.
Sleep difficulty may have long-term health consequences. The inability to sleep may also cause people to turn to tranquilizers and other drugs, which may have harmful health implications.
2. Interrupted sleep harms health.
Effects as serious as elevated blood pressure are attributed to typical road noise levels. Sleep disturbance occurs with levels as low as the sound of a refrigerator (40 decibels). Noise can delay falling asleep, or cause repeated awakening which a person may not recall, but which affects health by contributing to tiredness and stress-related conditions such as high blood pressure, coronary disease, ulcers, colitis, and migraines. Chronic interference with sleep can affect cognitive performance, reading and memory, and elevate stress hormone levels.
3. Loss of sleep decreases community safety.
An estimated hundred thousand car crashes a year occur as a result of drowsiness. Sleep deprived drivers are equal to drunk drivers as a serious threat to themselves and everyone else on the road.
4. Loss of sleep increases the risk of getting sick.
While research has shown that sleep boosts the immune system at the cell level, a recent study shows that even small sleep disturbances increase the risk of getting sick. People who tossed and turned as few as 25 minutes a night were five times more likely to get sick from a cold.
5. Continued exposure to noise constitutes a serious health risk.
Noise acts like other stressors and can result in heart rate increases, blood pressure rises, mouth dryness, rises in blood cholesterol levels, and excessive secretion of hormones. If the noise exposure is sustained over a period of time, these stress reactions can result in high blood pressure, cardiovascular disorders, or insomnia. There is evidence that sleep loss may lead to premature death, cardiovascular disease, and the development of diabetes.
6. Noise increases mental stress.
Noise has been linked to mental stress and distress. Individuals identify six emotional responses to noise, with 72% being annoyed, 40% angry, 30 % feeling helpless or upset, and 12% made physically ill. These emotions, if sustained, may lead to illness, a fact confirmed by a growing body of studies linking noise and illness.
7. Noise affects the whole body.
Women who don’t get seven hours of sleep erase much of the health benefit from exercising regularly, at least in preventing cancer. Exercise and sleep both affect body systems including hormone levels, the immune system, and weight. 
8. Noise increases obesity.
Increasing sleep deficits (or interrupted sleep) brings about physiologic changes in the hormonal signals that promote hunger and therefore likely contribute to obesity.
9. Noise damages hearing.
10. Noise has negative effects on children.
Noise in the home or school affects the mental development of children.[xv] Children’s language development, cognition and learning are impaired by noise.
11. Noise increases the community-wide burden of disease.
The burden of disease of noise exposure is being studied. Health effects of noise and noise-related health outcomes may include cardiovascular disorders, cognitive impairment, hearing loss, tinnitus, sleep disturbance and annoyance. Considering various types of noise, WHO experts cited:[xvi]
§ “There is sufficient evidence for the association between community noise and ischemic heart diseases, and limited/sufficient evidence for the association [with] hypertension.”
§ “The burden of disease caused by community noise induced tinnitus has probably been so far largely underestimated.”
§ “There are four components of cognitive impairment related to noise – reading, recall, recognition, and attention showing consistent relationship with noise exposure.”
12. Noise reduces quality of work.
Unpredictable and uncontrollable high intensity noise leads to degradation in quality of task performance, health risks, and reduction in quality of life.[xvii] Sleep loss may impair task performance, rendering individuals less productive in the workplace.[xviii]
13. Noise reduces quality of life.
Individuals living near a constant noise source may not yet have measurable physiological symptoms but their quality of life may be substantially diminished. A higher percentages of people exposed to aircraft noise indicated that they could not open their windows, talk on the telephone, converse with others in their homes, or listen to their radios and televisions, or sleep well.[xix]
People coping with noise intrusions perceive themselves to be in poorer health and experience a lesser quality of life. Perception of health is a valid indicator that has proven useful in detecting health outcomes.[xx]
For more information on combating train horn noise in SE Portland,
see the Hosford Abernathy Neighborhood Development website: www.handpdx.org
 Train Horn Noise - Health and Well Being Impacts, Arline L. Bronzaft, PH.D., 2004; http://www.noiseabatementsociety.com/tcmsapp/files/Appendix%201.doc
 World Health Organization, Regional Office for Europe, http://www.euro.who.int/Noise/Activities/20040304_1
 Heaner, 2004) and Maschke, et al (2004) Heaner, M. (October 12, 2004). Snooze alarm takes its toll on a nation. The New York Times.
Meschke, C. Hecht, K. & Wolf, U. (2004). Nocturnal awakenings due to aircraft noise. Do wake-up reactions begin at sound level 60 dB(A)? Noise and Health, 6, 21-33.
 Ibid, Bronzaft 2004
 U.S. National Highway Traffic Safety Administration www.safety.com/articles/driving-while-tired.html
 Bad seep spikes chance of getting sick, Oregonian, 1/17/09
Poor Sleep Increases Risk Of Getting Sick; CBS News, CHICAGO, Jan. 12, 2009, http://www.cbsnews.com/stories/2009/01/12/health/main4715717.shtml?source=RSSattr=Health_4715717
 Bronzaft, A. L. (2002) Noise pollution: A hazard to physical and mental well-being. In R. B. Bechtel and A. Churchman (Eds.) Handbook of Environmental Psychology. NY: John Wiley & Sons.
Kryter, K. D. (1994). The handbook of hearing and the effects of noise. San Diego: Academic Press.
Passchier-Vermeer, W. & Passchier, W. F. (2000). Noise exposure and public health. Environmental health Perspectives, 108, 123-131.
 H.P. Van Dongen, G. Maislin and J.M. Mullington et al., The cumulative cost of additional wakefulness: dose-response effects on neurobehavioral functions and sleep physiology from chronic sleep restriction and total sleep deprivation, Sleep 26 (2003), pp. 117–126.
Gottlieb DJ, Punjabi NM, Newman AB, et al: Association of sleep time with diabetes mellitus and impaired glucose tolerance. Arch Intern Med 165:863-867, 2005
Knutson KL, Ryden AM, Mander BA, et al: Role of sleep duration and quality in the risk and severity of type 2 diabetes mellitus. Arch Intern Med 166:1768-1774, 2006
Nakajima H, Kaneita Y, Yokoyama E, et al: Association between sleep duration and hemoglobin A(1c) level. Sleep Med 2007
Gangwisch JE, Heymsfield SB, Boden-Albala B, et al: Sleep duration as a risk factor for diabetes incidence in a large U.S. sample Sleep 30:1667-1673, 2007
Gangwisch JE, Heymsfield SB, Boden-Albala B, et al: Short sleep duration as a risk factor for hypertension: analyses of the first National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey. Hypertension 47:833-839, 2006
Gottlieb DJ, Redline S, Nieto FJ, et al: Association of usual sleep duration with hypertension: the Sleep Heart Health Study. Sleep 29:1009-1014, 2006
Gangwisch JE, Heymsfield SB, Boden-Albala B, et al: Short sleep duration as a risk factor for hypertension: analyses of the first National Health and Nutrition
Cappuccio FP, Stranges S, Kandala NB, et al: Gender specific associations of short sleep duration with prevalent and incident hypertension: the Whitehall II Study. Hypertension 50:693-700, 2007
Ayas NT, White DP, Manson JE, et al: A prospective study of sleep duration and coronary heart disease in women. Arch Intern Med 163:205-209, 2003
Ayas NT, White DP, Al-Delaimy, et al: A prospective study of self-reported sleep duration and incident diabetes in women. Diabetes Care 26:380-384, 2003
N.T. Ayas, D.P. White and J.E. Manson et al., A prospective study of sleep duration and coronary heart disease in women, Arch Intern Med 163 (2003), pp. 205–209.
Meier-Ewert HK, Ridker PM, Rifai N, et al: Effect of sleep loss on C-reactive protein, an inflammatory marker of cardiovascular risk. J Am Coll Cardiol 43:678-683, 2004
Ferrie JE, Shipley MJ, Cappuccio FP, et al: A prospective study of change in sleep duration: associations with mortality in the Whitehall II cohort. Sleep 30:1659-1666, 2007
 Bronzaft, A. L., Deignan, E., Bat-Chava, Y., & Nadler, N. B. (2000). Intrusive community noises yield more complaints. Noise Rehabilitation Quarterly, 25, 16-22,34. http://www.lhh.org/noise/archives/25-1/intrusive.html
 Fay, T. H. (ed.) (1991). Noise and Health. New York: The New York Academy of Medicine
Health Council of the Netherlands. (1994). Noise and Health. The Hague: Health Council of the Netherlands.
Kryter, K. D. (1985) The Effects of Noise on Man. 2d ed. Orlando: Academic Press.
Tempest, W. (1985) The Noise Handbook. Orlando: Academic Press
 Sleep deficit erases much of exercise's benefits. The Oregonian, December 3, 2008, Andy Dworkin.
 K. Spiegel, E. Tasali and P. Penev et al., Brief communication: sleep curtailment in healthy young men is associated with decreased leptin levels, elevated ghrelin levels, and increased hunger and appetite, Ann Intern Med 141 (2004), pp. 846–850
S.R. Patel, A. Malhotra and D.P. White et al., Association between reduced sleep and weight gain in women, Am J Epidemiol 164 (2006), pp. 947–954
Patel SR, Ayas NT, Malhotra MR, et al: A prospective study of sleep duration and mortality risk in women. Sleep 27:440-444, 2004
Patel SR, Hu FB: Short sleep duration and weight gain: a systematic review. Obesity 16:643-653, 2008
Hasler G, Buysse DJ, Klaghofer R, et al: The association between short sleep duration and obesity in young adults: a 13-year prospective study. Sleep 27:661-666, 2004
Reilly JJ, Armstrong J, Dorosty AR, et al: Early life risk factors for obesity in childhood: cohort study. Bmj 330:1357, 2005
J.S. Flier and J.K. Elmquist, A good night's sleep: future antidote to the obesity epidemic?, Ann Intern Med 141 (2004), pp. 885–886.
K. Spiegel, R. Leproult and E. Van Cauter, Impact of sleep debt on metabolic and endocrine function, Lancet 354 (1999), pp. 1435–1439.
 National Institutes of Health, 1990.
 Ibid, Bronzaft 2004
[xv] Ibid, Bronzaft, 2002.
[xvi] World Health Organization, Expert Working Group: Stuttgart, June 2005, and Bern 2005 http://www.euro.who.int/Document/NOH/Noise_EDB_2nd_mtg.pdf
[xvii] Glass, D. C. & Singer, J. E. (1972). Urban Stress: Experiments on Noise and Social Stressors. New York: Academic Press.
[xviii] Pollak, C P. (1991). The effects of noise on sleep. In T. H. Fay, (Ed), Noise and health., New York: New York Academy of Medicine.
[xix] Bronzaft, A. L., Ahern, K.D., McGinn, R., O’Connor, J. & Savino, B. (1998). Aircraft noise: A potential health hazard. Environment and Behavior 30, 101-113.
[xx] Davies, A. R. & Ware, J. E. (1981). Measuring health perceptions in health insurance experiment, Public Report No. R-2711-HHS). Santa Monica: CA: RAND.
Ware, J. E. (1986). The assessment of health status applications of social sciences to clinical medicine and health policy. New Brunswick, NJ: Rutgers University Press.