How much would you pay for a little peace and quiet at night? For residents in the western part of Berkeley (CA), the answer might be 10 million dollars. That is how much it will cost to reconfigure four minor at-grade rail crossings to comply with the FRA’s Quiet Zone rules.
Each year, several hundred Darwin Award winners get killed trying to beat the train as they drive around crossing gates. Based on a nonsense “cost-benefit” “study” done in 1994, the FRA implemented a new rule that requires trains to sound their horn at each grade crossing — even if the crossing is equipped with gates and bells.
The new FRA rule is one of the biggest unfunded Federal mandates ever. Those impacted by the rule would have no choice but to pay for expensive intersection reconfiguration, even if those intersections have no history of train-car accidents.
Interestingly, the FRA horn-blowing rule does not bother to consider pedestrian fatalities. In Berkeley, the vast majority of incidents at these grade crossings involve not cars but pedestrians (i.e. trespassers, homeless, drunks, etc). Consultants were asked what impact that accident rate would have on the ability to qualify for quiet-zone status, and the answer was “none at all”. The FRA only cares about automobile collisions because a pedestrian is unlikely to derail a train.