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Rail News: Communication and Signal

FRA issues final train horn rule

On Friday, the Federal Railroad Administration (FRA) released its final rule governing locomotive horn use at grade crossings. To take effect June 24, the “Final Train Horn Rule” will pre-empt applicable state laws and related railroad operating rules requiring trains to sound locomotive horns at crossings, and supersede an interim final rule issued by the FRA in December 2003.

The rule will allow communities to retain whistle bans if the ban took effect on Oct. 9, 1996 (the date Congress directed the FRA to address whistle bans), or Dec. 18, 2003 (the date the FRA published the interim final rule). Those communities can keep bans in place for five years to eight years while they develop and install any additional required safety measures. Municipalities enforcing a whistle ban created after Oct. 9, 1996, but not in effect until Dec. 18, 2003, can retain the ban for one year while they add required safety measures.

The rule also will establish a first-ever maximum train horn volume, reduce the amount of time a horn can sound and enable communities to create quiet zones (from six allowable types). In addition, the rule will ensure state agencies and railroads are involved in the development of quiet zones, credit communities for pre-existing crossing safety warning devices and govern pedestrian crossings within a quiet zone. New quiet zones will be allowed to stay in effect 24 hours a day or overnight, between 10 p.m. and 7 a.m.

"Communities will have significant flexibility to establish or maintain quiet zones for the benefit of their residents while keeping crossings safe for motorists," said acting FRA Administrator Robert Jamison in a prepared statement.

Contact Progressive Railroading editorial staff.

More News from 4/25/2005