Quiet Zone Analysis and Implementation in Jupiter
What is a quiet zone?
A quiet zone is a section of a rail line where locomotive horns are not routinely sounded. Jurisdiction of Quiet Zones fall under the Federal Railroad Administration (FRA).
A quiet zone removes the requirement for the routine blowing of train horns, although the conductor always has the option to blow horns at their discretion.
How are quiet zones implemented?
In order to establish a quiet zone, local governments or other agencies must show that the lack of the horn does not pose a significant safety risk. Some of the ways in which local governments may accomplish this include safety measures such as gates, medians, and other channelization devices.
Some illustrations and examples of safety measure are shown below:
Once the intersection safety improvements are complete and meet appropriate standards, local governments or agencies must file the appropriate notices and applications for the approval and establishment of quiet zones.
What work has been done in the past on quiet zones in Jupiter?
In 2010, the Town of Jupiter took the necessary steps to evaluate the safety measures that would be required at its various intersections in order to implement quiet zones. It also looked at the cost of those improvements. Shortly after that, the All Aboard Florida proposal came to light (now known as Brightline). With the delays to the Brightline project, the intersection improvements in Jupiter that would allow for quiet zone application have also been delayed.
What are the future plans for quiet zones in Jupiter?
Currently the Town is working with the Palm Beach Transportation Planning Agency (TPA) to plan for quiet zones in Jupiter. Brightline – the company that has recently established high-speed passenger rail from Miami to West Palm Beach and has plans to continue north to Orlando – is currently installing safety measures in West Palm Beach, Boca Raton, Boynton Beach, and Delray Beach at select intersections. Once the safety measures are complete, those communities may apply for quiet zones. If Brightline proceeds with phase 2 of their project to bring passenger rail north from West Palm Beach to Orlando, they will consider installing safety measures that may enable quiet zones. At this point, the timing of that project is unknown.
What if Brightline’s implementation north of West Palm Beach is cancelled or further delayed?
In the event that Brightline’s work to improve intersection crossings is further delayed or even cancelled, the Town of Jupiter could assume the responsibility for installing additional improvements, then applying for quiet zones. In this case, funding would have to be identified in the Town’s Community Investment Program (CIP).
As is the case with many issues, there are several moving parts and factors the Town will need to review and consider as it relates to Quiet Zones. For instance, does it make sense for the Town to pay to install certain safety measures and apply for Quiet Zones if those improvements will need to be redone if and when Brightline’s plans proceed through Jupiter? Furthermore, Brightline has participated in the cost of improvements in other communities. Does it make sense to wait in hopes of Brightline’s financial assistance and/or financial assistance from the TPA? In addition, Semi-Quiet Zones could also be considered, which are zones that limit train horns to daytime and establish quiet zones during the nighttime hours.
With that information in mind, the following summary and conclusions can be drawn:
- Unfortunately, Quiet Zones aren’t as simple as passing an ordinance and/or simply notifying the Federal Railroad Administration or the railroad of a desire to have less train horn noise. Local governments will have to prove (at perhaps considerable expense) and illustrate that safety measures make horns unnecessary.
- Each of the 7 railroad/vehicle intersections in Jupiter has unique characteristics in terms of traffic counts and intersection design. The safety improvements needed for one intersection aren’t likely to be the same for others. Some intersections might be better candidates for Semi-Quiet zones. Others may not. It is important that each be carefully studied and reviewed to ensure that the Town’s investment ensures safety, meets the criteria and can be approved by the appropriate parties.
- While there is great uncertainty with respect to Brightline’s plans, it does appear that more funding and certainty might be achieved if and when Brightline completes improvements to pass through Jupiter. It is important to understand if and how that might ensure longer improvement and/or a more cost-effective implementation of Quiet Zones.
The Town Council has prioritized a thorough and comprehensive review of Quiet Zones in their 2019 Strategic Plan. Suffice it say, the Town Council and Town Administration hear concerns from the public about train noise very clearly. The preliminary strategy that is emerging at this point is to study all available alternatives and associated costs and make appropriate recommendations to the Town Council in late 2018 or early 2019. With this approach, it is the Town’s hope that Brightline’s plans will become more clear and the Town Council will be positioned to make decisions with all available information.