Quiet Zone

Based on federal rule, local government agencies may restrict the usage of train horns at railroad crossings which meet specified criteria. 

These crossings are then considered to be within a "Quiet Zone".  On approach to such crossings train locomotives are NOT required to sound their horns.  The Commission’s Rail Crossings and Engineering Branch (RCEB) reviews notices of intent, establishment or continuation of Quiet Zones, and provides written comments to local authorities, focusing on safety concerns related to the potential for collisions between trains and the public.

As of 2013, there were 36 Established FRA Quiet Zones including 181 crossings.  Additionally, there were 5 corridors with Wayside Horns including 15 crossings.

Train Horn Rule

In general terms, a Quiet Zone may be established after implementing safety improvements that provide the same level of risk reduction as would otherwise be provided by the train horn. A Quiet Zone can be one crossing in a community, or several consecutive crossings in one or more communities. A Quiet Zone can be created along corridors shared by both railroad and rail transit.

The Federal Railroad Administration (FRA) Train Horn Rule (49 CFR Part 222) became effective on June 24, 2005.  This rule provides a step-by-step process to determine what can be done to offset the lack of a train horn, to calculate the risk reduction associated with potential improvements, to formally document the silencing of the train horns and officially establish a Quiet Zone.

For more information about the federal rule, visit the FRA website which has pages about the Train Horn Rule and Quiet Zones.

CPUC Authority

A Quiet Zone does not require state approval, and any crossings meeting the safety criteria established by the federal Train Horn Rule will qualify.  Although the federal Train Horn Rule does not require state authority to establish a Quiet Zone, RCEB is required to receive and evaluate all notices of intent, establishment or continuation of Quiet Zones, and provide written comments.  The evaluation requires research and verification of data submitted under the rule, as well as a field diagnostic review of the crossings.

Under the Train Horn Rule, RCEB is required to participate in diagnostic reviews of crossings in the proposed Quiet Zone and makes recommendations for safety enhancements in lieu of the train’s sounding of their horn.   Some crossings will require improvements be implemented before the crossing will qualify for inclusion in a Quiet Zone.  Some may qualify as currently configured, however, RCEB or the other parties involved in the Quiet Zone review (railroads, FRA, roadway authority) may recommend further improvements be implemented before establishing the Quiet Zone.  Cities and Counties decide whether to implement the additional recommended improvements, but the crossing must meet a number of requirements before a Quiet Zone can be established.  These include:

  • Federal Railroad Administration Train Horn Rule
  • California Public Utilities Commission General Orders
  • United States Department of Transportation’s Americans with Disabilities Act Standards for Transportation Facilities
  • California Manual on Uniform Traffic Control Devices (published by Caltrans)

Where modifications to a crossing are proposed by a local agency, RCEB will process the application to the Commission for authority to alter the crossing.  Authority to alter existing crossings must be obtained from the Commission, typically through the Commission’s General Order 88-B process.  For further information, see the GO 88-B web page.

Quiet Zone Contacts at CPUC

Please use the following information to contact CPUC Rail Crossings and Engineering Branch regarding Quiet Zone notices, correspondence, or inquiries.

General Inquiries

For general inquiries relating to the Train Horn Rule, please contact the Quiet Zone Coordinator:

Matthew Bond, P.E.
Rail Crossings and Engineering Branch
California Public Utilities Commission
(213) 576-1313

Notices required under the Train Horn Rule

Please send electronic copies (PDF format preferred) to the Branch manager, engineer assigned to the area, and the Quiet Zone Coordinator. To electronically submit very large files, please use the CPUC File Transfer site at https://cpucftp.cpuc.ca.gov/

(a) Branch Manager

Provide an electronic copy to Anton Garabetian, P.E., Program Manager, Rail Crossings and Engineering Branch: antranig.garabetian@cpuc.ca.gov

(b) Engineer assigned to the area

Provide an electronic copy to the appropriate field engineer. See the Rail Crossings Contact Information.

(c) Quiet Zone Coordinator

Provide an electronic copy to Matthew Bond, P.E.: matthew.bond@cpuc.ca.gov

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