Oceanside on track for railroad quiet zone

Oceanside on track for railroad quiet zone
The Coaster train runs past the SpringhillSuites in Oceanside. Hotel guests complain regularly about train horn noise. A Quiet Zone would relieve the horn blasts as they come in and take off. Photo by Promise Yee

OCEANSIDE — Oceanside is closer to establishing a railroad quiet zone after the City Council voted to put $1 million in Caltrans funds toward safety improvements to its railroad crossings on Nov. 18.

Funds will pay for improvements to one of the five coastal crossings.

The Mission Avenue crossing, in the heart of downtown, which sees the greatest vehicle and pedestrian use, will be improved first. Construction to upgrade the crossing is expected to start next year.

“We’ve got the money, so we’re going to go forward,” Mayor Jim Wood said. “It doesn’t handle the whole city. We’re hoping that we can designate a couple of major intersections. If we do that, that can be a quiet zone.”

Improvements would include adding two pedestrian automatic gate arms, wider sidewalks, a marked pedestrian crossing, fencing and warning strips.

“We have to have a system set up that they can’t drive around the gates,” Wood said. “It’s a lot more money than you think. Plus with the pedestrian traffic the gates have to stop them, and they don’t right now.”

Design plans to improve crossings were launched in 2014.

The city has given greater priority to establishing a quiet zone as its downtown has developed over the past few years.

“We get complaints from the hotel saying, ‘we enjoyed Oceanside and the hotel, but we’re upset about the train horn noise,’” Wood said. “With more hotels going down there that’s one of the biggest complaints. And we want to address that complaint as soon as we can.”

The city is exploring a short-term commercial paper loan and additional appropriations of future Transnet revenues to finance $5.8 million in improvements to the remaining coastal crossings. Upgrades would establish a citywide quiet zone. There would also be a cost savings to improve the crossings at the same time.

Minimal plans are to upgrade the adjacent crossing at Surfrider Way, and establish a limited two crossing quiet zone.

Safety improvements must go through a regulatory process before train engineers stop blasting the horns.

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