Noise from trains topic of concern

Del Mar residents are looking to hush some of their loudest tourists — the trains. Trains are passing through the city more frequently with Amtrak, Coaster and freighters alike, and as more trains rumble through, the sound of horns blaring is increasing and getting louder, residents complain.

"It's getting to the point where it's no longer romantic," said 29-year resident Hershell Price. "It's absolutely terrible."

Residents with ringing ears asked that City Council pursue establishing a quiet zone in Del Mar or perhaps acquiring a waiver to allow a ban during evening hours or on trains headed in specific direction. A new committee made up of concerned citizens and council members will study the feasibility of railroad ruckus relief.

The issue has come before the council before, last in 2007, but the cost was too great. North County Transit District (NCTD) charges $1,075,000 to establish a quiet zone and while many areas in San Diego County have tried, no such zones have been granted.

The cost covers enhanced safety measures like signage and warning bells at crossings.

Mayor Crystal Crawford asked the residents present if they would be willing to "hit leather" to try and fund some improvements. Several residents said they would.

In the past two years the noise has gotten worse, Price said, noting that about 55 trains pass through during the day and two to three freighters in the middle of the night.

The blasts vary between an engineer laying on the horn for a long extended blow or giving it numerous taps.

Larry Richards, who for 11 years has lived "a football-field length" away from the tracks said the noise has gotten so bad "it just makes you want jump right out of your skin."

Another resident, Mark Whitehead, said the horns have gotten erratic and seem to be loud for no reason.

Council member Mark Fillanc said the issue of imposing a quiet zone is complicated by the fact that the horns are needed for safety. There is only one track crossing in Del Mar and without stopping trespassing, people crossing to surf or get to the beach, there will always be the need for horns.

Resident Lee Stein agrees that safety always wins but said it doesn't make sense that the sound needs to echo through in a 360-degree radius when it is meant to warn just people near the intersection.

Stein will be part of the community group and hopes to get more empirical data about how much of a nuisance the noise truly is and what the conductor is actually seeing to prompt such blasts.

About 20 residents met on Sept. 22 with representatives from City Council and NCTD. The transit district told the city they would ask engineers to sound their horns as little as possible when going through Del Mar because it is causing such a disturbance.

   
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