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City Council Approves “Quiet Zone”

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Aired 6/23/10

The San Diego City Council gave final approval Wednesday for a plan to improve safety at railroad crossings in downtown San Diego.

— The San Diego City Council gave final approval Wednesday for a plan to improve safety at railroad crossings in downtown San Diego.

Council members approved a nearly 18 million-dollar project to upgrade safety infrastructure at 13 crossings from the East Village to Little Italy.

Improvements like additional car and pedestrian gates will pave the way to having the rail corridor designated as a quiet zone. Under federal law trains approaching the intersections are currently required to alert drivers and pedestrians by sounding their horns.

Once the quiet zone designation is in place conductors can be fined for using their horns between 11 p.m. and 6 a.m. Improvements will begin in August and are expected to be completed by November 2011.

The council chambers were packed with project supporters Wednesday afternoon, many of them downtown residents like David Cohen who said he is tired of living with the sound of train horns.

“I want to let you know that 80 decibels at 11 p.m. and then 2 a.m. and then 4 a.m. is real," Cohen said, addressing council members during the public comment session. "It’ll make you jump out of bed.“

Money for the expected $17.9 million in design and construction costs will come from the city’s redevelopment agency. Ongoing maintenance and operating costs will be paid out of the city’s general fund. Those costs are estimated to be between $27,000 and $60,000 per year.

Council members Carl DeMaio and Donna Frye voted against approving the project, citing concerns that its impact on city finances has not been examined closely enough.

“There’s a lot of projects I would love to say yes to. But, the reason why I’m in office is because of our city’s financial problems," DeMaio said. "So, I have to look at the general fund impacts and I have to look at the liability and risks borne by city taxpayers.”

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