Frequently asked questions
 

Q. What is a quiet zone?

A. The Federal Railroad Administration (FRA) creates a quiet zone by granting an exemption to the Train Horn Rule so that trains don’t have to blow their whistles except in an emergency. Quiet zones have been allowed since 2005.

 

Q. Why do trains blow their whistles?

A. Drivers and pedestrians are warned that a train is approaching a crossing when bells alert drivers that the crossing arms are coming down to block the crossing. Then 15 to 20 seconds before the train reaches the crossing, it blows its whistle four times as a last warning.

 

That means every train that passes through San Marco blows its whistle 32 times. According to federal data, between 24 and 32 trains travel through San Marco every day. So, on a busy day, San Marco residents and patrons can hear around 1,000 blasts of a train horn. 

 

Q. How loud are the whistles?

A. They are between 96 and 110 decibels. An alarm clock 80 decibels. A lawnmower is between 60 to 90 decibels. Car horn 110 decibels. Source: Audicus

The noise pollution from the train whistles interrupts sleep, affects health and reduces real estate values.

 

Q. Do railroads object to quiet zones?

A. No. Railroads are willing to stop using the whistles as long as alternative safety measures are in place. CSX has a help guide.

 

Q. How many quiet zones are there in the US?

A. According to the FRA, there are 974 quiet zones, including 40 in Florida.

 

Q. How is a quiet zone established?

A. The city must conduct an engineering study of the crossings under consideration for a quiet zone to determine what alternative safety measures are needed. Traffic flow is a major consideration.

 

The engineer will make one of the following recommendations:

  • Four-quadrant gates for the busiest roads

  • Traffic median or barrier for moderate traffic

  • Closing the road to traffic.

The FRA and affected railroads review the proposed safety enhancements. Once all parties agree and the enhancements are installed, the FRA can grant the exemption.

 

Q. What is the Quiet Zone Jax Initiative?

A. A group of San Marco residents want the city to request a quiet zone exemption for the FRA for the following crossings:

  • Prudential Drive (near Baptist)

  • San Marco Boulevard

  • Nira Street

  • Hendricks Avenue

  • Atlantic Boulevard

  • River Oaks Road

  • St. Augustine Road

  • Emerson Street

 

The Atlantic and Emerson crossings are included in a federal/state project to make upgrades at the Bowden Railyard.

 

That leaves the crossings at

  • Prudential Drive (near Baptist)

  • San Marco Boulevard

  • Nira Street

  • Hendricks Avenue

  • River Oaks Road

  • St. Augustine Road

 

Q. What do we have to do to get a quiet zone in San Marco?

A. There are several things:

  • Ask City Council member LeAnna Cumber, who represents San Marco, to request an engineering study. (904) 255-5205; LCumber@coj.net Assistant: Debbi Pataky

  • Sign the petition. The petition has no binding force but it does show city officials that there is broad interest in a quiet zone.

  • Let the members of the City Council know San Marco would like their support for a quiet zone.

  • City elections are this spring. We will be getting a new mayor and a new city council member. Joe Carlucci, who is running for District 5 seat has given his enthusiastic support for the quiet zone. Be sure to tell him thanks. I don’t know where his opponent, Morgan Roberts, stands on the issue.

  • Here is a list of the candidates running for mayor, including LeAnna Cumber. Let them know of your interest and find out where they stand.

  • Talk it up among friends, neighbors and community groups: Businesses, developers, churches, San Marco Merchants Association, San Marco Preservation Society and Right Size San Marco.

  • Educate yourself about the issues at SanMarcoJax.com

  • Join our Facebook page.

  • Get involved. We need people who are good at talking to people and developing a strategy to get this done. Get in touch if you want to help.