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City Still Working to Quiet Pier Train Horns

Now that whistles have been silenced at North Beach, San Clemente is focusing on the Pier crossing.

The effort to quiet train whistles at the pedestrian/rail intersection near the San Clemente Pier is slogging forward, despite resistance from a major freight company, city officials said.

The city and Orange County Transportation Authority recently worked to install safety equipment at the North Beach rail crossing so trains wouldn't need to blow their horns. Now, the city is working on the more complex San Clemente Pier pedestrian rail crossing.

(Engineers may still sound horns at their discretion if they perceive a safety risk.)

Because the BNSF Railway has protested the pier quiet zone, citing liability concerns, the city, OCTA and their attorneys have taken their case to the California Public Utilities Commission, which has authority over whether the quiet zone will be allowed.

"There are some really significant things going on right now," said Community Development Director Jim Holloway. "A lot of office work, nothing public... filing of briefs."

The plan is to install an 80-decibel voice warning system at the Pier Bowl crossing, significantly quieter than the 112 decibels required for vehicle crossings.

The OCTA, city and consultants contend the warning system and related safety infrastructure would make the crossing safe enough that trains could pass without sounding their horns and disturbing nearby residents and hotel guests.

Holloway commended the OCTA because it has "really put itself out there," allocating $134,000 to the project even though a final CPUC decision isn't expected until April.

"They've already paid for all the design work, and that's not cheap," he said.

In the meantime, OCTA is negotiating with contractors on a construction contract, Holloway said. City officials hope construction will start in January, with completion six to 10 months later.

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