Quiet Zone Analysis and Implementation in Jupiter

What is a quiet zone?

A quiet zone is a section of a rail line where locomotive horns are not routinely sounded.  Jurisdiction of Quiet Zones fall under the Federal Railroad Administration (FRA).

A quiet zone removes the requirement for the routine blowing of train horns, although the conductor always has the option to blow horns at their discretion.

How are quiet zones implemented?

In order to establish a quiet zone, local governments or other agencies must show that the lack of the horn does not pose a significant safety risk.  Some of the ways in which local governments may accomplish this include safety measures such as gates, medians, and other channelization devices.

Some illustrations and examples of safety measure are shown below:

Quiet Zone Safety Measures

Once the intersection safety improvements are complete and meet appropriate standards, local governments or agencies must file the appropriate notices and applications for the approval and establishment of quiet zones. 

What work has been done in the past on quiet zones in Jupiter?

In 2010, the Town of Jupiter took the necessary steps to evaluate the safety measures that would be required at its various intersections in order to implement quiet zones.  It also looked at the cost of those improvements.  Shortly after that, the All Aboard Florida proposal came to light (now known as Brightline). With the delays to the Brightline project, the intersection improvements in Jupiter that would allow for quiet zone application have also been delayed. 

What are the future plans for quiet zones in Jupiter?

Currently the Town is working with the Palm Beach Transportation Planning Agency (TPA) to plan for quiet zones in Jupiter.  Brightline – the company that has recently established high-speed passenger rail from Miami to West Palm Beach and has plans to continue north to Orlando – and has already installed safety measures in West Palm Beach, Boca Raton, Boynton Beach, and Delray Beach at select intersections.  Many of those communities now have quiet zones.  As Brightline proceeds with phase 2 of their project to bring passenger rail north from West Palm Beach to Orlando, they will install safety measures at the intersections that enable quiet zones.  Once the safety measures are installed, the Town, through the Palm Beach County Transportation Planning Agency (TPA), can apply to the FRA for quiet zones.

With that information in mind, the following summary and conclusions can be drawn:

  • Unfortunately, Quiet Zones aren’t as simple as passing an ordinance and/or simply notifying the Federal Railroad Administration or the railroad of a desire to have less train horn noise.  Local governments will have to prove (at perhaps considerable expense) and illustrate that safety measures make horns unnecessary. 
  • Each of the 7 railroad/vehicle intersections in Jupiter has unique characteristics in terms of traffic counts and intersection design.  The safety improvements needed for one intersection aren’t likely to be the same for others.  Some intersections might be better candidates for Semi-Quiet zones.  Others may not.  It is important that each be carefully studied and reviewed to ensure that the Town’s investment ensures safety, meets the criteria and can be approved by the appropriate parties.
  • When Brightline completes improvements to the intersections that allow their trains to pass through Jupiter, it may enable the process to apply for quiet zones in a more cost-effective way. 

The Town Council has prioritized a thorough and comprehensive review of Quiet Zones in their Strategic Plan.  Suffice it say, the Town Council and Town Administration hear concerns from the public about train noise very clearly.  The preliminary strategy that is emerging at this point is to study all available alternatives and associated costs and make appropriate recommendations to the Town Council as Brightline's project implementation and schedule becomes more clear.