Friday, October 29, 2010
Starting November 1, trains moving through an at-grade railroad crossing at Forest Glen Road in Silver Spring will no longer be required to blow their loud whistles after a two-year effort by the Montgomery County Department of Transportation (MCDOT). The crossing will be the first “Quiet Zone” of its type in Maryland.
In February, MCDOT installed a median barrier as a first step to ensure safety. The barrier prevents cars from going around the gates that come down when a train is coming. It also added protection for pedestrians, bicyclists and drivers using enhanced crosswalks, lighting and signage. MCDOT also plans to put a sidewalk on either side of the tracks to make the area more walkable.
MCDOT was first contacted by the Rock Creek Hills neighborhood association about the noise in 2000. However, following a rule change by the Federal Railroad Administration (FRA) in June 2005, the noise level became worse. The rule, “Use of Locomotive Horns at Highway-Rail Grade Crossings” requires locomotive horns to be sounded as a warning to highway users at public highway-railroad crossings. The rule pre-empted any state or local laws that allowed for “whistle bans.”
MCDOT worked with the County Council, Federal and State officials, neighborhood representatives, and other stakeholders to find a solution. Specific safety improvements that provide the same calculated level of accident risk reduction as a train locomotive horn had to be in place before the FRA could designate the area as a Quiet Zone.
FRA accident reports state that three vehicle-train crashes occurred at the site in the last three decades. Two of the three crashes (in 1977 and in 1985) involved a vehicle driving around the lowered automated gates. The third accident (in 2000) consisted of a backhoe being struck while working on the tracks.
POSTED AT: 4:00:00 AM