September 21, 2016
Last evening the City Council heard a report on establishing quiet zones - designated areas where trains do not blow their horns at street level railroad crossings. The Council agreed to have staff participate the Federal Railroad Authority, Oregon Department of Transportation and Central Oregon Pacific Railroad in a diagnostic study of exactly what Ashland would have to do to qualify for quiet zone status. Click here to read more about quiet zones.
CORP (Central Oregon and Pacific Railroad) recently began running trains through Ashland at night due to extreme fire danger. Avoiding the steep grades of the Siskiyous during the heat of the day significantly reduces the risk of fires. The trains will return to the daytime schedule when fire season ends, usually in October or when the rains begin. CORP resumed train movement through Ashland in November of 2015 after an eight-year hiatus.
Citizens have expressed frustration with the train horn sounding during the night and have inquired about Ashland being designated a “quiet zone,” which would prohibit trains sounding their horns at crossings. For Ashland to be designated a “quiet zone,” the City would be required to install acceptable crossing barriers at each crossing in Ashland in order to meet federal safety requirements. Installing barriers would likely cost upwards of $2 million.
Federal regulations require trains to sound the horn in a specific pattern, for a specific length of time, at a specific volume at all public crossings for safety purposes. The federal government has preempted local regulation of railroads. States have only a little leverage as to rail operations and state law also preempts local regulation.
For more information see https://www.fra.dot.gov/Page/
P0889 and https://www.oregon.gov/ODOT/RAIL/Pages/Whistle_Noise.aspx.