Under the “Train Horn Rule,” locomotive 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, engineers will not sound the horn until it is within a quarter mile of the crossing, even if the advance warning is less than 15 seconds, according to the U.S. Department of Transportation’s Federal Railroad Administration.
There is a “good faith” exception for locations where engineers can’t precisely estimate their arrival at a crossing and begin to sound the horn no more than 25 seconds before arriving at the crossing.
Train horns must be sounded in a standardized pattern of two long blasts, one short blast and one long blast. The pattern must be repeated or prolonged until the lead locomotive or lead cab car occupies the grade crossing. The rule does not stipulate the durations of long and short blasts.
In a quiet zone, railroads have been directed to cease the routine sounding of their horns when approaching public highway-rail grade crossings. Train horns may still be used in emergency situations or to comply with other federal regulations or railroad operating rules. Localities desiring to establish a quiet zone are first required to mitigate the increased risk caused by the absence of a horn.
A new quiet zone using supplemental safety measures must be at least a half mile in length along the railroad tracks and must have at a minimum, flashing lights and gates in place at each public crossing.
Danville Urban Services Director David Schnelle told aldermen earlier this week that there has been a longtime “strong community desire” to look at quiet zones. The number of trains going through the city has more than doubled since the mid-1990s, he said.
Schnelle said other communities have had success with quiet zones.
The blowing of whistles and idling train noise in residential areas, such as near Townway and Turtle Run Golf Course, have been issues in the city for years, Ward 7 Alderman Bill Black reminded city officials earlier this week.