Following yesterday’s list of the states with the most and least number of railroad quiet zones, at the end of this blogpost is a list of those metropolitan areas in the United States with the most quiet zones. Texas has four metropolitan areas in the list, while Wisconsin has three, with parts of three others on its border (Chicago, Twin Cities, and Duluth-Superior).
Quiet zones are a potential tool in an urban planner’s regulatory quiver for reducing the community’s overall noise pollution, by limiting the use of railroad train whistles/horns, particularly at night. The Federal Railroad Administration (FRA) adopted its most recent set of regulations pertaining quiet zones in 2006.
Only those crossings which have updated signal/automatic gate arm and crossing technologies, proper signage along the tracks for train engineers, and the appropriate street signage to warn drivers that they are entering a train horn-free zone may be declared a horn-free zone. Other quiet zone factors include:
- A minimum length of 1/2 mile is required for each quiet zone and the minimum separation between quiet zones is also 1/2 mile.
- A quiet zone may include one or more consecutive public, private and pedestrian crossings.
- Flashing-light signals, half-roadway gates, constant-warning-time circuitry, and appropriate signage are required for all public crossings.
- Additional minimum qualifying conditions are determined by the level of risk, as calculated by the Federal Railroad Administration (FRA).
Given the number of communities that either were grandfathered in or have established new quiet zones, the data listed below are particularly fascinating for those metropolitan areas that are not included, such as railroad centers like New York City, Philadelphia, Baltimore, Washington, Buffalo, Pittsburgh, Cleveland, Detroit, Indianapolis, Kansas City, Omaha, Chattanooga, New Orleans, Denver, and Los Angeles, or places considered eco-friendly like San Francisco, Oakland, San Jose, Seattle, Tucson, Boulder, Eugene, Ann Arbor, and Portland.
According to Michigan’s quiet zone coordinator, the most significant impediment to establishing more quiet zones in the state is the cost of adding updated railroad crossing technologies, which can run upwards of $200,000 per crossing! In many cases, thie is largely the community’s responsibility. For smaller communities, jurisdictions with tight budgets, or those places with limited control over their road network, such as townships, the installation cost can be prohibitive.
Here’s the list of those metropolitan areas with the most quiet zones:
- Chicago, IL-IN-WI = 48
- Dallas-Fort Worth, TX = 47
- Twin Cities, MN-WI = 39
- Boston, MA = 28
- Duluth-Superior, MN-WI = 15
- St. Louis, MO-IL = 15
- Appleton-Oshkosh, WI = 14
- Orange County, CA = 12
- San Antonio, TX = 12
- Roanoke-Blacksburg, VA = 11
- Houston, TX = 10
- Milwaukee, WI = 10
- Atlanta, GA = 9
- Green Bay, WI = 9
- Louisville, KY-IN = 9
- Portland, ME = 8
- Austin, TX = 7
- Palm Beach County, FL = 7
SOURCE: Federal Railroad Administration