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Westside MAX Trains Switch from Horns to Quieter Bells

From www.Trimet.org:
WES trains are now operating more quietly in Beaverton. The Federal Railroad Administration (FRA) has approved TriMet’s request to waive certain regulatory requirements relating to WES train horns. For the SW Lombard Ave segment between SW Farmington Road and the Beaverton Transit Center, WES trains will sound a 78-80 decibel bell at each crossing, rather than the current 96 decibel horn.

The FRA approved the elimination of the sounding of a train horn, finding the request was consistent with railroad safety and in the public interest. The waiver is temporary and can be revoked for safety reasons or an increase in train speed. The operator may still blow the horn at any time for safety reasons.

Sounding the locomotive horn

In June 2005, the FRA issued rules governing the use of train horns at grade crossings throughout the U.S. Under the rules at a public grade crossing, the locomotive horn must sound five times for a minimum of 15 seconds and a maximum of 20 seconds, and at a minimum 96 decibel and maximum 110 decibel level. The horn must continue to sound until the lead locomotive or train car enters the crossing. The WES horns are around 96 decibels.

While requesting a waiver for the Lombard segment, TriMet had also requested a waiver from the FRA to lower the horn decibel throughout the entire alignment, However, the FRA did not approve the waiver, and WES train horns will continue to sound at the 96 decibel level outside the new Lombard bell segment in Beaverton.

Tualatin Quiet Zone

Work is underway to create a quiet zone in Tualatin between Tonquin Road and SW 95th Avenue that would mean that no WES or freight train horns will sound when a train is present, unless the train engineer sees a safety concern.

  • Three intersections will be upgraded from two-quadrant gates to four-quadrant gates that will stop all vehicular traffic movement when a train is present. This quiet zone treatment covers about 2.4 miles of the alignment and will be added at Tonquin Road, Avery Street and Teton.
  • A concrete median barrier will be installed at SW 95th Avenue to prevent vehicles from driving around a crossing gate. This treatment also means that WES and freight trains will not have to sound horns at this crossing.

Wayside horns will be installed at four crossings north of SW 95th Avenue. These horns are stationary and located at a crossing to provide audible warnings to motorists and pedestrians. This reduces the noise impact as it eliminates the requirement of a horn to sound about a quarter mile from a crossing. This treatment will cover about one mile between 95th Avenue and Tualatin Road.

Construction on the quiet zone and installation of the wayside horns is set to begin in July and completed by the end of the year. The cost is $3 million, with funding provided by federal stimulus funds from TriMet and Metro, Tualatin MSTIP funds and Washington County. Other jurisdictions along the WES alignment are also studying noise mitigation measures.

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