Welcome to Viva-city and Downtown San Diego
Sandra Simmons

Life in the City

-by Sandra Simmons

Train horns are important safety devices, but they also can be a nuisance for residents. - U.S. Secretary of Transportation Norman Y. Mineta.

As romantic as a distant locomotive horn is, no one wants to be blasted from precious sleep by a blaring horn outside his or her bedroom window in the wee hours of the morning. Hopefully, Downtown residents will soon be freed from interrupted conversations and nights spent with closed windows avoiding wakeful noisy intrusions.

When I first moved Downtown twelve years ago, there was one train a week --- 10:00pm on Sunday night. It was a romantic sound longingly transporting me back to my college years of hopping the train outside my apartment and riding to the coast.

The romantic notion quickly dissipated several years later when I moved into The Brickyard. By that time many more trains and noisy horns had been added, including several in the small hours of the night. It was two years before I slept through an entire night.

With an emerging population of new residents and a growing discontentment among them, Wayne Metlitz became the champion of the cause. He spent years documenting, interviewing, and meeting with various officials, and through his tireless efforts he successfully presented evidence to the city. The city ruled train horns “seriously affect the quality of life,” and passed an ordinance prohibiting the use of train horns during the hours of 11:00pm and 6:00am.

Although other cities around the United States created “quiet zones” local railroads complied with, ours decided to ignore our quiet zone ordinance and mounting fines.

City officials decided to hold off pursuing until the Federal Railroad Administration (FRA) made a ruling. The Interim Final Rule for Use of Locomotive Horns at Highway Crossings was passed, and the final rule takes effect on December 18, 2004.

As soon as the ballpark is completed in April, our officials will begin to create our quiet zone.

What happens next? How long will it take to analyze each crossing? Is there money for the required improvements? Once completed, how long will it take for the quiet zone to be approved and in effect?

I wonder…When will the blast no longer blast me from my dreams?

Wayne Metlitz (Parkloft) firmly believes a quiet zone will significantly increase the quality of life for Downtown residents and hotel guests.

Tom Sullivan (Watermark) notices train horns getting louder and engineers blowing them longer, and is hopefully anticipating the relief of a quiet zone.

Sean Furey (CityFront Terrace) feels the train horns are important for safety, but it seems some conductors go beyond using it for safety especially in early morning hours.

Gary Smith (Park Row) is complying data on the lengths of medians and crossing arms. Once assembled, he will hand it over to the city transportation office in hopes of speeding up the application process.

Now if we can only find the money to underground the freight railroad line…. - April 2004

Return to Top