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U.S. Transportation Secretary Slater Announces Proposal to Require Train Horns At Public Highway-Rail Grade Crossings

American Government Special Collections Reference Desk

American Government Topics:  Rodney E. Slater

U.S. Transportation Secretary Slater Announces Proposal to Require Train Horns At Public Highway-Rail Grade Crossings

Federal Railroad Administration
January 12, 2000

Wednesday, January 12, 2000
Contact: Pamela Barry
Telephone: 202-493-6024
FRA 1-00

Criteria for "Quiet Zones"

In a continuing effort to improve transportation safety, U.S. Transportation Secretary Rodney E. Slater today announced a proposed rule that would require trains to sound their horns at public highway-rail grade crossings except at select crossings in communities that meet specified criteria for quiet zones.

"President Clinton and Vice President Gore are committed to improving transportation safety and protecting the environment," Secretary Slater said. "This rule, when adopted, will help prevent crashes involving trains, motor vehicles and pedestrians at highway-rail grade crossings and yet enable communities to maintain quiet in zones that need to be protected from noise."

The rule proposed by the U.S. Department of Transportation’s Federal Railroad Administration was written in response to a law enacted by Congress in 1994 requiring train horns be sounded when a train approaches and enters a public highway-rail grade crossing unless certain exceptions are met to establish a quiet zone.

The proposed rule describes the safety measures that a community may employ to establish a quiet zone and yet deter drivers from taking risks at crossings. These measures include the use of four quadrant gates, channelization devices or crossing closures at highway-rail crossings or photo enforcement to deter violators. The rule also proposes an upper volume limit for train horns.

"The proposed rule requires train horns because they are effective safety devices to warn drivers and pedestrians of an approaching train," said Federal Railroad Administration (FRA) Administrator Molitoris. "At the same time, the rule provides safety criteria for communities wishing to establish quiet zones while keeping crossings safe."

The regulation will become effective one year after a final rule is issued, providing communities time to establish quiet zones.

In 1998, there were 3,508 highway-rail grade crossing collisions resulting in 431 fatalities and 1,303 injuries. Studies have shown that there is a 62 percent greater probability that highway-rail grade crossing incidents will occur at crossings where train horns are not sounded.

The proposal is on the Internet at http://dms.dot.gov. Comments should be sent by May 26, 2000, to the DOT Central Docket Management Facility, Docket Number FRA-1999-6439, 400 Seventh St., S.W., Washington, D.C.

The FRA will also hold public hearings concerning this rulemaking in seven states and the District of Columbia this spring: there will be hearings in Ohio, Massachusetts, Florida, Illinois, Oregon, Indiana, California and Washington, D.C.

In addition to the proposed rulemaking, the FRA today also issued a draft environmental impact statement (DEIS) for the proposed rule on the use of locomotive horns. The docket number for the DEIS is FRA-1999-6440.

More information can be found on the FRA’s website at http://www.fra.dot.gov/horns.


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