The City of Oceanside has been working through the lengthy process of constructing railroad crossing improvements to meet Federal Railroad Administration (FRA) requirements to establish a Quiet Zone along the North County Transit District coastal corridor through Oceanside. In a Quiet Zone, active devices such as gates, signals, and railings warn vehicle and pedestrian traffic of on-coming trains in lieu of the routine sounding of their horns. Train horns will still be used in emergency situations. Cities desiring to establish a Quiet Zone are first required to mitigate the risk by updating crossings to specific standards to ensure safety.
After much work in coordination with the FRA, the California Public Utilities Commission (CPUC), Amtrak, Metrolink and North County Transit District, the Quiet Zone was originally scheduled for establishment in June 2019. In July 2019, the FRA and CPUC inspected the improvements and requested additional work. The additional work was completed in early April 2020 and the Quiet Zone establishment was rescheduled. But a change in the FRA Risk Threshold across the five crossings in the proposed Quiet Zone had required a re-assessment of the work. This was due to changes over the life of the project, train speeds, train volumes, suicides and accidents.
In addition to changing risk, the incorporation of a pedestrian crossing and its planned extension across the SPRINTER tracks to the mainline platform at the south end of the NCTD Oceanside Transit Center OTC and the installation of a traffic signal at the Mission/Myers intersection have been added to the improvements to increase the effectiveness of the proposed quiet zone.
At its October 7, 2020 meeting, the City Council approved further funding to accommodate NCTD changes within the railroad right-of-way, minimize the sounding of horns, add a walkway to Mission Avenue and install the Mission/Myers traffic signal. The majority of the additional work approved by City Council is complete. Residents and commuters can now use the walkway constructed from the Oceanside Transit Center to Mission Avenue. While construction only took weeks, the coordination effort to allow the work was extensive. This new walkway was necessary because of people trespassing on NCTD right-of-way to get to the station. The trespassers prompted the sounding of train horns in addition to the sounding required for the Mission Avenue crossing. The active gates combined with the new walkway will improve the effectiveness of the Quiet Zone.
The large foundations for the new traffic signal at the Mission/Myers intersection located several hundred feet from the railroad crossing were constructed in December. The poles, mast arms, and signal heads for the intersection ordered in April 2020 began arriving to the City’s maintenance yard in mid-December. Also in December, the City, NCTD, and SDGDE worked through the conflicts that allowed SDG&E to provide electricity to the new signal and railroad equipment hut.
The Quiet Zone is anticipated to be established in mid-February 2021, but final approval is subject to the discretion of the Federal Railroad Administration. Future updates and further information is updated on the Project webpage.