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Quiet Zone Information

No Train Horn Sign

 

The Federal Railroad Administration (FRA) train horn rule provides localities nationwide with the opportunity to establish quiet zones. The federal rule pre-empts all applicable state laws. To qualify, communities wishing to establish quiet zones must equip proposed grade crossings with adequate safety measures (supplemental safety measures or “SSMs”) to overcome the decrease in safety created by silencing the train horns. The additional safety measures must be constructed at the community’s own expense and must meet federal specifications. 

While the FRA is the only entity that has the ability to approve quiet zones, below represents a brief outline of the steps a community needs to take to establish a quite zone:

The public authority of the community is the only entity that can petition for a quiet zone (e.g. mayor).

A quiet zone must be at least 0.5 miles long and each crossing must be equipped with:
•    Lights and Gates
•    Power Out indicator on bungalow
•    Constant Warning Time

A review of the grade crossing for the purpose of developing recommendations for the SSMs by a Diagnostic Team* is not required, but is suggested; especially if the crossing does not have lights and gates.  The Diagnostic Survey is to be organized by the community.

Once the crossing(s) meet the above criteria, the community submits a letter of intent to all agencies that may be impacted by the quiet zone (i.e. FRA, Ohio Rail Development Commission (ORDC), Public Utilities Commission of Ohio (PUCO), Local Railroad, EMS, Schools, etc.).  There is no letter template provide by the FRA.  Additional information on the FRA's process can be found here: https://railroads.dot.gov/highway-rail-crossing-and-trespasser-programs/train-horn-rulequiet-zones/train-horn-rule-and-quiet

From our conversations with the FRA, below are further details on the two ways a community can establish a quiet zone:

  • Self-establishment with SSMs:
    • SSM installations where the risk index is lowered or below national risk level
    • No formal FRA approval.  Done by community.  Quiet zone established through notice of establishment.
      • Process: Notice of intent (60 day period), make improvements of SSMs (FRA highly recommends diagnostics at public crossings, must be done at private or crosswalk crossings), fill out the risk calculator, send notice of establishment.  **FRA must get notices of establishment and prefers to get notice of intent, although not required.
  • If the community is going to use alternative safety measures (not SSMs)  
    • An application must be made to FRA.  FRA reviews it and sends approval letter to community.  Community sends notice of establishment, certify everything has been done according to FRA letter, then FRA confirms the quiet zone is established.  Community can do whatever they want in way of infrastructure improvements, but cannot proceed with establishing the quiet zone until FRA approves the application.  Notice of intent and application to FRA cannot be done at same time.  
      • Process: Notice of intent (60 day period), then apply to FRA due to using alternative safety measures (must include in application to FRA how you address the comments received - includes another 60 day waiting period for comment from FRA), install alternative safety measures, send notice of establishment.

If a community has questions on how to proceed, or wants someone from the FRA to assist them, they may contact Evelyn Hendricks of the FRA at 330.416.1139.

***Note: State Agencies (ORDC) are prohibited from participating in the establishment of a quiet zone unless the community indicates they are also interested in pursuing crossing closures.  If your community intends on closing at least one at-grade railroad crossing as a part of the establishment of a quiet zone, please contact Wende Jourdan at 614.728.9497.

*A diagnostic team means a group of knowledgeable representatives of the parties of interest in a highway-rail crossing or group of crossings (Code of Federal Regulations § 646.204)