City Expands Rail Quiet Zones

10:00 PM PDT on Thursday, March 17, 2011

The Press-Enterprise

Soon after moving plans for a Third Street underpass to the back burner, Riverside officials decided to add a railroad crossing at Third and another at Mission Inn avenue to a “quiet zone,” which limits the need for train horns.

The council voted this week to do the required safety studies and seek approval from the BNSF railroad and the state Public Utilities Commission to add the two crossings to an already-approved quiet zone that is now being designed. The $800,000 for the study will come from redevelopment funds.

Plans for the $40 million underpass were canceled, city officials said, because of a funding shortfall. The city had identified some of the $15.7 million they still needed, but officials had projected $8 million of it would come from a proposed container fee that was never put in place, deputy Public Works Director Tom Boyd said.

“We needed a funding program for each grade separation, and we had to make assumptions,” and the container fee seemed reasonable when it was suggested in 2006, he said.

Officials recently shifted about $7 million in federal funds from the underpass project to pay for the approved quiet zone, in which safety improvements will allow train operators to reduce their use of horns. Adding Third Street and Mission Inn Avenue to the zone, which already covers 15 BNSF crossings, is intended to address residents’ noise concerns, Councilman Andy Melendrez said.

“There’s a lot of trains that go by and it seems like (horns are) constantly blowing,” he said. “It’s difficult for (residents) to even have their windows open at night.”

Melendrez met several times in 2010 with a group of residents concerned about the issue, he said.

Some people got frustrated recently because losing the underpass meant giving up $17.5 million in state transportation bond money and getting no relief from train noise, Melendrez said.

It should take about two years to get the Third and Mission Inn parts of the quiet zone approved, designed and built.

Quiet zones use raised medians, double crossing gates, signs and other safety measures to keep cars off the tracks.

Adding those two streets leaves only five or six at-grade crossings, in the northern part of the city that are not part of a quiet zone, Boyd said.

Reach Alicia Robinson at 951-368-9461 or

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