The Palm Beach Post – Federal agency to test FEC train horns

Posted on March 23, 2015

By Kimberly Miller


The Federal Railroad Administration will test the decibel levels of horns on Florida East Coast Railway engines the first week of April, although initial results show the levels to be in compliance with what is allowed.


Residents who live near the FEC corridor from the Treasure Coast through South Florida began complaining this year about an increase in horn noise coming from passing freight trains.


The railway started running new locomotives on the tracks in late November, following an announcement that the company would acquire 24 engines with better fuel efficiency to haul freight on the 351-mile route from Jacksonville to Miami.


A spokesman with FRA said Friday the administration has received test reports on the railway’s locomotive horns that show the horns are compliant with federal regulations. Train horns are restricted to decibel levels of between 96 and 110.


“FRA has also scheduled further testing of FECR’s locomotive horns and trains for the first week of April,” the spokesman said. “Those tests will be conducted by FRA experts, and are being done to validate that FECR’s locomotive horns and trains are compliant.”


Train conductors are generally required to sound train horns at least 15 seconds, and no more than 20 seconds, in advance of all public grade crossings. The horns are blown in a pattern of two long blasts, one short blast, and one long blast.


The Florida East Coast Railway said it gets more complaints in the winter about loud horns as “weather allows for windows to be open and there are less leaves on trees to mute the horn.”


Nick Uhren, executive director of the Palm Beach Metropolitan Planning Organization, said he requested an update from FECR on Wednesday, but had not received anything as of Friday afternoon.


The historic Grandview Heights Neighborhood Association in West Palm Beach formed a committee to address the train horn issue. Association President Renee Zarro suggested that even if the horns are in compliance, they could be reduced to the lowest decibel level allowed, especially during the colder months.


“There seems to be no question amongst the communities along the coast that there has been a significant increase in the volume of train horns since the introduction of these new trains,” said Grandview Heights association member Rick Rose in an email to FECR. “In the interests of everybody, we need to look at ways to mitigate the noise levels where possible.”

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