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CCDC Delays Downtown Quiet Zone

A "quiet zone" for trains that traverse downtown San Diego is being delayed until May.

— Downtown San Diego residents who yearn for quiet nights of sleep will have to wait another two months before early morning freight trains mute their horns. Downtown redevelopment officials now say their "quiet zone" for trains won't begin until May.

There are 15 downtown intersections where overnight trains have to blast their horns to warn cars and pedestrians. Kim Kilkenny, chairman of the Center City Development Corporation, said he had hoped those horns would be silent this month.

But Kilkenny adds that when the quiet zone is established, it'll be big.

"To the best of my knowledge this is the biggest urban quiet zone anywhere in the United States," he said.

For years, downtown residents and hotel guests have complained of being rousted from their sleep by freight trains that traverse downtown every night at 2 a.m. and 5:30 a.m.

Gary Smith, head of the San Diego Downtown Residents Group, said regulations have required trains to blow their horns when they're within 1,600 feet of each intersection. Given the number of downtown intersections, he said that means the trains basically blow their horns non-stop.

"If you sit anywhere near there at 2 o'clock in the morning it'll roll you out of bed and bounce you off the floor a few times," he added.

But Kim Kilkenny said the city can mute those train horns, and keep the tracks safe, by adding more traffic gates at grade crossings and replacing the street-based warning bells.

"The bells are replaced by electronic horns that are directional," he said, referring to the fact that new horns will toot in the directions of cars and pedestrians, not the surrounding environment.

Kilkenny said delays in receiving and installing equipment have delayed the establishment of the downtown quiet zone. But he said once all is in place in May, he's expecting federal approval of new safety equipment and a silencing of overnight train horns in downtown San Diego.

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