The city of Santa Rosa will put in place quiet zones for trains traveling through the city starting June 7, joining other North Bay communities in dampening the sound of train horns along the tracks where passenger service is expected to start next month.
Santa Rosa’s quiet zones will cover all 14 rail crossings in the city, from Bellevue Avenue in the south to San Miguel Avenue in the north. A rail crossing planned for Jennings Avenue also will be included, said Jason Nutt, the city’s director of transportation and public works.
Officials with the Sonoma-Marin Area Rail Transit Authority had urged communities to hold off implementing quiet zones while testing of the trains and rail crossings is ongoing. But the agency appears to have softened that stance in recent weeks.
Nutt said the city and SMART “mutually agreed” the timing of the city’s quiet zone is “appropriate.”
The city’s original intent was to wait to implement the zones until six months after passenger service had started to get people accustomed to the presence of the trains, Nutt said. But after SMART delayed service in December, Nutt said officials feel enough time has elapsed now to press forward.
“We feel that the public has become more acclimated to the presence of the trains, not that there’s not more education that’s needed,” he said.
Federal regulations require train engineers to sound horns at least 15 seconds in advance of all public rail crossings, as well as when entering and departing stations. Santa Rosa has two stations — downtown at Railroad Square and on the north side at Guerneville Road.
Under federal law, communities can establish quiet zones prohibiting the use of train horns except in limited circumstances, including when a vehicle, person or animal is on the track or when crossing gates are not functioning. To qualify for the designation, additional safety measures must be in place at the crossings where the horns would no longer routinely sound.
SMART, which has timed the start of passenger service to late spring, pushed back hard on Petaluma after the city became the first in Sonoma and Marin counties on April 19 to implement quiet zones. The rail agency called the city’s actions premature and said they would heighten public safety risks.
Farhad Mansourian, SMART’s general manager, could not immediately be reached Friday for comment.
Petaluma’s quiet zone was put on hold by federal railroad regulators over a paperwork issue. It is set to resume Wednesday.
In the meantime, San Rafael went forward with implementing a quiet zone covering all of Marin County on May 12.
The Sonoma County Board of Supervisors on Tuesday will discuss moving forward with quiet zones at 15 public crossings — including three in Rohnert Park and one in Cotati — from Aviation Boulevard north of Santa Rosa, to Ely Road north of Petaluma. The deliberations include funding for safety upgrades to all 11 of the crossings in unincorporated areas.
You can reach Staff Writer Derek Moore at 707-521-5336 or firstname.lastname@example.org. On Twitter @deadlinederek.