On Tuesday, August 24, the City of Encinitas put on a four-hour live demonstration of a new "wayside" horn warning system for oncoming trains at road crossings. The system is designed to replace the loud, constant, onboard train horns that have been the basis of noise complaints for decades.
An average of 50 trains a day travel along the coastal North County tracks — 24 Coaster commuter trains, 18 Amtrak, and the rest are long freight trains, which usually travel at night. Federal law currently requires trains sound their warning horn for a minimum of one-quarter mile before a road crossing. Engineers may use the horn longer, and many residents have complained that they do.
At a federally required 96 to110 decibels, a train's horn can be heard for miles away. Railroad Controls Limited (RCL) of Benbrook, Texas, provided their patented equipment for the public's review at the Chesterfield Drive crossing in Cardiff. The speaker emits an electronic horn sound at only 92 decibels; sound can be directed and localized so only cars and pedestrians within a few hundred feet of the track would hear it. During the demonstration, just one block away from the crossing, the volume dropped to 78 decibels — about the same noise level as riding in a car on the freeway.
The government will allow waivers of federal train-horn regulations for the new system. The cities of Riverside and Pomona have installed RCL's equipment. If approved, the installations in Encinitas will cost about $100,000 for each road crossing.
Commenting on the new electronic sound, Encinitas deputy city manager Richard Phillips said, "Unfortunately, you won't hear any more country songs written about these horns."
To see and hear the sound of the train horns vs. the new speaker system, click here.