Train Horn Noise

The City of San Mateo has great access to high-quality commuter train service and overnight freight service.  

The City is committed to working with the local rail operator and federal regulators to reduce train horn noise in San Mateo by making safety improvements to areas where tracks intersect with local roads.

Current projects include safety improvements to rail crossings at 4th and 5th Avenues, work at East Bellevue Avenue, and the planned closure of the Villa Terrace crossing.  Learn more below.

We Want to Hear from You!

Your feedback matters. We invite you to take our community survey to share your thoughts regarding the City’s plan to establish a City-Wide Train Quiet Zone and proposed projects on Villa Terrace and East Bellevue Avenue. Click the “Survey” button to take the survey before it closes on March 8, 2024. 

For Spanish, click the Survey in “Spanish" button.

Train Horn Noise - English Survey ButtonTrain Horn Noise - Spanish Survey Button

  1. General Information
  2. Current & Past Projects
  3. Next Steps

Rail Corridor in San Mateo

The rail system along the Peninsula, including all safety warning devices at crossings, is owned by the Peninsula Corridor Joint Powers Board (PCJPB). Passenger and freight service along the corridor are provided by Caltrain and Union Pacific respectively. Caltrain service operates within our City limits from approximately 5 a.m. to 1 a.m. on weekdays and approximately 8 a.m. to 1 a.m. on weekends. Union Pacific service operates from approximately 7:30 p.m. to 4 a.m. daily.

In our City, there are at-grade crossings at Villa Terrace, E. Bellevue Ave, 1st Ave, 2nd Ave, 3rd Ave, 4th Ave, 5th Ave, and 9th Ave.

Federal Railroad Administration Requirements

Federal Railroad Administration (FRA) governs railroad operations and their regulations require trains to sound horns when approaching an at-grade crossing, occupied station platforms, construction zones, and when a trespasser is spotted by the conductor in the railroad right of way. These regulations must be followed at all times of the day. Trains are required to sound their horns at designated distances up to a quarter mile in advance of each at-grade crossing depending on operating speed. 

What is a Quiet Zone?

In 2005, the FRA established Title 29, Part 222, titled “Use of Locomotive Horns at Public Highway-Rail Grade Crossings,” also known as the “Train Horn Rule.” The Train Horn Rule allows cities to establish a “Quiet Zone” to restrict the use of train horn noise along train corridors. In order to establish a “Quiet Zone”, cities must implement FRA approved safety measures at a number of at-grade crossings within the proposed segment. FRA approved safety measures include upgraded four-quadrant gates, concrete medians, street closures, and one-way street conversion.

It should be acknowledged that a “Quiet Zone” only silences the routine sounding of train horns at grade crossings. Even within an established “Quiet Zone,” trains are still required to sound horns when approaching occupied station platforms, construction zones, or whenever a trespasser is spotted by the conductor in the railroad right of way.

Four Quadrant Gates

Quadrant Gates

Medians

Medians - Train Noise Quiet Zone

Example Street Closure

Train Noise Closure Crossing pic 2