Petition for Lake Oswego Train Quiet Zones

Petition for Lake Oswego Train Quiet Zones

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E. Jones started this petition to Lake Oswego City Council and the Transporation Board

The goal of this petition is for Lake Oswego to implement Rail Road Quiet Zones (RRQZ).  What this means is that the city would need to improve safety measures surrounding the proposed crossings so that train operators would not be required to blow the horn when passing through these intersections.  As we all know, trains pass through town 5x per day on average, including early mornings and late at night and while they have been a constant in Lake Oswego for over 100 years and some residents have grown to love the sound of the horn, the benefits of eliminating the horns far outweigh familiar and sometimes comforting sounds of the trains. 

For Lake Oswego Citizens, a RRQZ would lead to:
o Noise pollution relief
o Improved quality of life and sleep
o Increased house values 
o Improved safety
o Helping businesses

RRQZ Proposed Crossings 

Lower Boones Ferry Road – Crossing 754243K
Boones Ferry Road – Crossing 749192S
Bryant Road – Crossing 749190D
Ext Reese Rd - Crossing 74919K
Lakeview Blvd 213- Crossing 749189J
Berwick Rd - Crossing 749186N
Fifth Street - Crossing 749184A
Third St Ped Xing- Crossing 749183T
Third St - Crossing 749173M
Millenium Plaza- Crossing 916554L
State Street - Crossing 749182L

Through public outreach a number of potential impacts have been identified. 

  • Socio-economic effects - There appears to be general agreement that property values increase in areas near railroad tracks when routine train horns are silenced
    • A 2013 analysis of home values in Plymouth, Massachusetts, concluded that a quiet zone would increase market values for residential
      properties in the range of 10%.
    • A 2016 study, "Silence is Golden: Railroad Noise Pollution and Property Values," by Jay Walker of Niagara University, found that the assessed value of
      residential properties in Memphis, Tennessee, within the 65 decibel range of train operations was 13% below properties with less noise exposure. That study also found no significant property value decrease among commercial properties.
    • A 2006 study on “The economic valuation of train horn noise” by William Bellinger of the Dickinson College of Economics found that residential property values were found to decrease by about $4800, or 4.1% of the sales value, per 10 decibels of added noise exposure
  • Safety would be addressed for injury/fatality, motorists, cyclists, pedestrians, and individuals with disabilities
    • To establish an RRQZ, safety measures must be installed at the railroad crossings that reduce the quiet zone risk index below either the “Risk Index with Horns” or the “Nationwide Significant Risk Threshold.” The FRA has developed a web-based quiet zone calculator for determining the risk index for individual railroad crossings.
    • The goal is for the quiet zone to be below the risk index with horns and ideally below the national risk
      threshold of 14,273.
  • Noise and other environmental impacts - Train horns can put out 98-152 decibles of sound.
    • Effects of noise pollution on health and livability – Many individuals believe that noise
      pollution from train horns can cause mental and physical health issues. Lack of sleep is a
      commonly cited problem.

Process Steps:

The first step in developing a set of safety measures (SSMs and ASMs) for a proposed RRQZ is to establish and convene a meeting of a Diagnostic Review Team. The rules and regulations stipulate the entities that must be represented on the Diagnostic Review Team. Members of the Diagnostic Review Team include the City of Lake Oswego as the local road authority and the applicant for a RRQZ and responsible for all capital and operation and maintenance costs, Portland and Western Railroad (PNWR) as the owner of the railroad and designer/contractor for any work within the railroad right of way, ODOT Rail as the state regulatory authority and issuer of crossing orders for any modifications to railroad crossings, and FRA as the federal regulatory authority and final approval authority for the establishment of a RRQZ.

The Diagnostic Review Team would visit each railroad crossing to determine the viable safety measures for each crossing. This information would then be shared with the RRQZ Citizen Advisory Panel for review and selection of safety measures for each crossing.

If the City Council accepts the recommendations and directs staff to move forward with the project, the City, as the local road authority, must provide a written Notice of Intent to all of the railroads operating in the proposed quiet zone and to ODOT Rail as the state regulatory authority. The purpose of the Notice of Intent is to provide an opportunity for the railroads and ODOT Rail to provide comments and recommendations to the City as it is planning the quiet zone.

The City must also apply to ODOT Rail for crossing orders for each rail crossing that is altered, relocated or closed. Pre-applications are submitted with 30 percent complete construction plans and applications are submitted with 90 percent complete construction plans. Safety is the driving factor in assessing applications. Local movement needs to also play a key role in decision making, such as when crossings provide important routes for local pedestrian, bicycle or vehicle circulation. As required by statute, ODOT must also examine opportunities to eliminate at‐grade crossings, focusing on crossings that are redundant or have the greatest potential for conflicts between trains and other modes of transportation.

Upon application review, if the City, PWNR, and ODOT Rail all agree to proceed, ODOT Rail will draft a Proposed Order for review by the Crossing Section Manager and all interested parties (railroad, public road authority, and other interested parties). If the parties do not agree to move forward, but the applicant wishes to pursue the project, an administrative hearing process is available.

The City must also apply to the FRA for approval of a quiet zone. The requirements of the application are outlined in the FRA’s Rules and Regulations. The application must include a commitment to implement the proposed safety measures. Approval of an application for a quiet zone may occur prior to the construction of any safety measures.

Upon the completion of all safety measures by the City (within the public right of way) and PNWR (within the railroad right of way) the City may provide Notice of the Quiet Zone Establishment and implement the quiet zone.

0 have signed. Let’s get to 1,000!
At 1,000 signatures, this petition is more likely to be featured in recommendations!