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City Council on board for wayside horn installation

DEL MAR — A group of residents attempting to reduce train noise received council approval at the May 17 meeting to seek funding for the $160,000 project.
The Quiet Zone Committee, led by long-time Del Mar resident Hershell Price, conducted a test April 22 to determine if a stationary wayside horn system would be an effective and affordable way to temper train noise.
After receiving nothing but positive input, the group canceled a follow-up workshop and went directly to City Council for approval to move forward. With that in hand, securing private donations will now be easier, committee member Lee Stein said.
Once there is a funding commitment, staff can begin confirming costs and securing contracts for items such as the horns, the inventory to support them and monthly maintenance, which will be provided by North County Transit District, City Manager Karen Brust said.
“I do not see any obstacles if we have the funding in place and the support of the committee,” she said.
Public Works Director David Scherer said all rail lines that use the tracks will have to be on board with the project but he didn’t foresee any problems either.
Representatives from NCTD, Amtrak, the Federal Railroad Administration and the California Public Utilities Commission all said they supported the wayside horns after witnessing the test.
Federal regulations support the use of wayside horns so no special approval is needed at that level, however, installation must meet federal standards, Scherer said.
No one attended from Burlington Northern Santa Fe Railway, which runs the freight trains, Scherer said.
The citizens committee has been looking at ways to reduce train noise since about 2006. Early on the city considered installing a quiet-zone gate but that option was quickly abandoned because of a $1 million price tag.
Recently the group began researching wayside horns, which provide an audible warning to motorists and pedestrians that a train is approaching. A signal from the track circuit warning system is sent to wayside horns permanently mounted at the crossing. The sound mimics a train horn until the train reaches the crossing. Once the train has entered the crossing, the horn stops.
A flashing red X indicates to the train crew that the wayside horn is in place and working properly so the train horn should only be sounded in an emergency. If the system is not performing correctly, the red X would not flash and the engineer will be required to sound the train horn.
“The engineers of each of the trains still will have the option to blow the horns and … if there’s pedestrians in the right of way they’ll be blowing,” Scherer said.
In addition to positive input following the April test that included unanimous endorsement from the nearby Ocean Windows condominium association, a handful of speakers told council members they supported the project.
“We may as well move forward with it and let them work on getting the dough so we can get it done and sleep better at night,” resident Edward Yuskiewicz said.
Council members agreed. “This is a great idea,” Councilman Don Mosier said. “The technology works and it will be perfectly safe and it will benefit our citizens.
“I … want to express my appreciation for this committee solving a long-standing problem by finding a much better technology than something that was invented a century and a half ago — pulling your whistle on your train.”
“What a wonderful solution,” Councilwoman Crystal Crawford said. “This is a wonderful effort on the part of our residents, who are smart and dedicated and don’t understand the word no. We appreciate that because then it means we have this wonderful opportunity.”
Mayor Richard Earnest also supports the project but said he made it clear to the committee “there was no city money for this.”