The Federal Railroad Administration (FRA) is inviting comments about its controversial train horn rules that are 11 years old. Current rules mandate that locomotives blast their horn when approaching a railroad crossing for safety purposes.
Several members of Congress from Colorado, including several representatives in the House and both US senators, applauded the FRA’s move and urged residents of the state as well as local government officials to provide comments to the railroad agency.
Many politicians say that train horn noise is a serious issue for communities across Colorado and many other states. They say that they are advocating for flexibility in train horn rules to help some communities create more quiet zones that can increase economic development.
Current FRA rules that were set up 2005 allow communities to apply for permission from the federal government to create a quiet zone where the train horn rules can be relaxed IF the community puts up flashing lights and barrier gates.
Local government officials complain that it is too expensive for them to satisfy FRA’s requirement to set up quiet zones in this way.
Current rules state that train engineers must sound their horn for at least 15 seconds in advance of reaching a train crossing.
Our railroad accident attorneys in Virginia understand the concerns that some residents have regarding train horn noise. The problem is that safety gates are not a 100% solution. We have seen many train/car accidents over the years where the safety gates malfunction and stay up as the train is approaching.
We also have seen railroad crossings in some cases that were not properly maintained, with too much vegetation obstructing the view of the driver at the crossing. Our railroad accident lawyers have handled cases with sizable settlements where serious accidents have occurred at railroad crossings.
So, it is important for concerns over train horn noise to be considered in light of the fact that train horns sounding at crossings save lives.
Also, we think that the outcry over train horn noise only reinforces that positive train control systems must be implemented sooner rather than later, but the Federal Railroad Administration keeps allowing railroads to lobby for delays on implementation of PTC systems for the nation’s railroads. These are the systems that automatically can slow and stop a train if it detects a vehicle on a railroad crossing, or that the train crossing lights and gates are activated.