ENCINITAS — A Coaster train zooms by the intersection of Chesterfield Drive and San Elijo Avenue and something is missing.
Well, except for the “woosh” from passing vehicles, but gone are the bells and the ubiquitous, jarring sound of the train horn alerting passersby of its approach.
The half-mile stretch of silent railway is the city’s first “quiet zone,” a federally designated area where train horns don’t have to sound because of enhanced safety measures installed at the train crossing.
It quietly (no pun intended) went into effect at 12:01 a.m. April 28 and stays in effect 24 hours a day, seven days a week.
City officials celebrated the milestone the morning of May 1, offering remarks at 10:05 a.m., 11 minutes after a Coaster train passed through the corridor without blowing its horn.
“This quiet zone was established under federal rules so that train engineers are no longer required to sound their horn at this intersection,” said council member and North County Transit District chairman Tony Kranz. “It should be noted that the rail engineer may still blow the train horn for any safety concerns he or she may have.”
The quiet zone’s completion is part of a suite of projects along the Coastal rail corridor that runs through Encinitas, which includes double tracking a portion of the corridor, upgrading bridges and improved safety measures at crossings.
It was developed and funded by Encinitas and involved a host of agencies, including the San Diego Association of Governments, North County Transit District, California Department of Transportation, the Federal Railroad Administration and the California Public Utilities Commission.
SANDAG’s budget for the Chesterfield Grade Crossing was approximately $6 million and was supplemented by city funds of approximately $770,000 for the installation of crossing gates, lights and other safety measures required to implement the quiet zone, according to a release.
In order to become exempt from a federal law that requires train engineers to start sounding their train’s horn as they approach each crossing, Encinitas has had to undergo a lengthy process, including approvals from agencies such as the state and federal agencies.
Cities must make costly upgrades to railroad crossing points to improve safety conditions for vehicles and pedestrians.
The city completed the required safety measures earlier this year.
City officials are currently working on a plan to create another quiet zone that would stretch over most of the rest of the city, which will likely cost millions of dollars.