Washington, D.C. - Today, U.S. Rep. Ed Perlmutter (CO-07) applauded the release of the Government Accountability Office’s study on railroad quiet zones. The report was conducted after an amendment authored by Perlmutter was included in the Fixing America’s Surface Transportation (FAST) Act signed into law in December 2015.
“Today’s report confirms what communities in my district have been telling me for years. Establishing quiet zones are costly, burdensome, and lack clear guidance from the Federal Railroad Administration to standardize and simplify the process,” said Perlmutter. “I’m glad GAO can help shine a spotlight on the problems facing communities wanting to establish quiet zones to reduce train horn noise, improve safety, and allow continued economic development near railways.”
GAO’s report included interviews with the Colorado Public Utilities Commission and the cities of Commerce City, Fort Collins, and Windsor as well as other cities and experts across the country. The report makes clear that while there are no federal sources of funding specifically for establishing quiet zones, significant costs can be incurred by local communities to meet strict safety requirements often requiring significant consultation and approval from FRA.
Additionally, the report acknowledges the lack of research on the benefits of establishing quiet zones such as improved quality of life, economic development, and safety improvements to the crossings. The GAO included a recommendation for the FRA to develop guidance for inspectors to help standardize training across all FRA regions which could reduce administrative burden on establishing quiet zones, a significant complaint from stakeholders interviewed.
“I hope the FRA takes this report to heart and works quickly to reopen the 2005 train horn rule to find ways to improve coordination between the FRA and local communities and simplify the quiet zone process,” Perlmutter continued. “My constituents and communities face train noise issues every day of the year. I look forward to continuing to work with the FRA to improve the 2005 rule and issue new guidance so our communities can be safe while also seeing relief from train horns.”
The Federal Railroad Administration (FRA) released a Notice of Safety Inquiry on March 7, 2016 inviting comments on the 2005 train horn rule requiring the use of a locomotive horn while traveling through railroad crossings unless a Quiet Zone was established under the rule. The notice generated over 300 comments from communities and stakeholders across the country.