Train Horn Regulations



Trains have sounded horns or whistles as they approach crossings as a safety measure for more than a century. In the 1980's, Florida imposed a horn ban and the Federal Railroad Administration (FRA) noted a significant increase in grade crossing accidents. As a result, over the years, the FRA and Congress have developed rules requiring that trains sound their horn at all grade crossings nationwide, and specifying the volume, length and pattern of the sound. The FRA has also established a very thorough process for establishing quiet zones, which prohibits the use of train horns at qualifying railroad crossings and thereby mitigating the effects of train horn noise on surrounding residents and business owners.

Quiet Zone Established for Rodenburg Rd. Crossing

The quiet zone for the Rodebnurg Rd. railroad crossing officially went live on September 9, 2016.  As part of the establishment of the quiet zone, traffic channelization devices (vertical tubes that prevent vehicles from driving around lowered gates) were installed along the middle of Rodenburg Rd. on both the north and south sides of the crossing. Because the absence of routine horn sounding increases the risk of a crossing collision, the Village was required to mitigate the additional risk through the installation of the channelization devices. Horns within the quiet zone may still be used in the case of an emergency and to comply with federal or other railroad regulations.

Quiet Zone Evaluated for Downtown Crossings

A train horn quiet zone study was conducted on the downtown railroad crossings at Roselle Rd., Prospect St., and Park St. in 2014 to evaluate the feasibility of establishing a quiet zone in the downtown. A copy of the feasibility study done in 2014 is available here for download (PDF). The study identified that due to unique roadway configurations and other adjacent property circumstances that mitigating the additional risk of a crossing collision in the downtown would be costlier and more complex than the quiet zone established at Rodenburg Rd. As a result, the Village has retained a professional engineering company to initiate early steps in the establishment of a quiet zone, which includes data collection, engineering design, FRA review, and stakeholder meetings.

The most crucial step in the process is the FRA review. In order to receive its review and feedback, the Village submitted plans to the FRA for establishing a quiet zone in Spring 2018. The plans include the installation of safety improvements at each of the downtown crossings that will consist of the same traffic channelization devices that are being used on Rodenburg Rd. However, until the FRA completes its review, which could take up to a year, the Village does not know the cost or complexity for establishing a downtown quiet zone. Once the FRA completes its review, the Village Board will make a decision if it wants to move forward with a downtown quiet zone.

Partial Quiet Zones in Roselle

In 2005, the FRA also established rules whereby a community could establish a quiet zone, which is a section of a rail line where alternative safety measures have been put in place waiving the requirement that trains must blow their horns when approaching grade crossings. The FRA takes the position that quiet zones, by their very nature, have the potential to increase the risk of train accidents by removing the use of the horn, which is considered a safety measure.

These procedures also recognized that some communities established a quiet zone prior to the new rules being implemented otherwise known as a "partial quiet zone" or "pre-rule quiet zone". Roselle has a partial quiet zone that covers the crossings at Roselle Rd., Prospect St., and Park St. However, the quiet zone only applies between the hours of midnight to 5:00 a.m. Outside of the midnight to 5:00 a.m. hours, train horns are sounded at Roselle Rd., Prospect St., and Park St. No quiet zone prevents the use of horns at any time that the engineer believes a safety concern exists (such as cars or pedestrians on or near the tracks).

Engineers must begin to sound train horns at least 15 seconds, and no more than 20 seconds, in advance of all public grade crossings. If a train is traveling faster than 60 MPH, which includes some trains traveling through Roselle, the engineer sounds the horn within ¼ mile of the crossing. Train horns must be sounded in a pattern of 2 long, 1 short and 1 long blasts. Federal Law does not stipulate the duration of the blasts. By requirement, the maximum volume level for the train horn is 110 decibels and the minimum sound level is 96 decibels. These rules apply to the grade crossings in Roselle at Roselle Rd., Prospect St, and Park St.