Oceanside approves $5M loan for railroad quiet zone

Oceanside approves $5M loan for railroad quiet zone
In Oceanside, funds to make railroad crossing safety improvements are approved and plans are under final review, including creating a railroad quiet zone. File photo by Promise Yee

OCEANSIDE — Oceanside is on track to be one of the growing number of California cities to have a railroad quiet zone. Funds to make railroad crossing safety improvements have been approved and plans are under final review.

The City Council unanimously approved a pass through loan of $5.7 million from SANDAG on March 2, to borrow future TransNet revenues, which are provided to cities by the half-cent sales tax. The loan will expedite railroad safety improvements, allow the roadway asphalt overlay project to continue and be paid off over five years.

Borrowed money will pay for safety improvements at four of the five city coastal railroad crossings.

Improvements to the Mission Avenue crossing will be paid for by a $999,000 state Department of Transportation safety improvement grant. Funds were awarded to the city in November 2015 because the downtown crossing has a high volume of pedestrian travel.

Planned safety improvements are currently under review by California Public Utilities Commission and North County Transit District. Improvements to crossings will include four-quadrant crossing arms, pedestrian gates, queue-cutting traffic signals that prevent vehicles from blocking the tracks, railroad detection improvements and new sidewalks and fencing.

The improvements will make Oceanside the first North County city with a quiet zone.

“All the other coastal cities want these things,” Mayor Jim Wood said. “We’re one of the first to have them.”

There are currently 90 train trips a day through Oceanside. That number is expected to double by 2020, when SANDAG double tracks rail lines to meet growing regional transportation needs.

Leslee Gaul, Visit Oceanside CEO, said downtown train noise impacts the quality of life and results in a negative visitor experience that is shared in tourism news and on social media.

Improvements to the five coastal crossings will create a quiet zone similar to San Diego’s downtown quiet zone between Laurel Street and Park Boulevard.

Council members stressed that there will still be locomotive bells and audible crossing signals. Horn blasts for safety will remain at the discretion of the engineer.

“It will be a little bit quieter, but it’s still a train,” Councilman Jerry Kern said.

Work is expected to begin in June 2017 and be finished by July 2018. Once work is completed a review is needed to designate a quiet zone.

Forty-four California cities now have quiet zones.

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