Train Horns

Village of Fox Point Train Horn FAQ

1. I thought the railroad could not use the horn / whistle in Fox Point.

The Village of Fox Point passed an ordinance that prohibited the use of the train horn during the evening and overnight hours of 8:00pm to 6:00am; except for southbound trains at East Dean Road. This long standing ordinance was adopted by the Federal Railroad Administration when they developed Railroad Quiet Zones. Railroad Quiet Zones are a part of the Federal Code and now govern the railroads use of horns / whistles in a community. Quiet Zones have been adjusted several times in the Federal Code, with the most recent rule changes that affect Fox Point occurring in 2008. Fox Point is grandfathered by the code and designated a Pre-Rule Partial Quiet Zone.

When the train does sound the horn it will be done in compliance with the Federal Code.  The Federal rule enacted in 2005 requires that railroad employees must blow the horn 15-20 seconds prior to occupying a public highway-rail crossing. The same Federal rule specifies the volume, length, and pattern of the sound of train horns.

2. Can we get the hours adjusted or silence the horns 24 hours?

Yes. The village is currently grandfathered as a Pre-Rule Partial Quiet Zone. In order to make adjustments to the hours or silence the horns 24 hours a day the village would need to update the Supplemental Safety Measures at each grade crossing in the quiet zone. The updates needed depend on a safety analysis which would be completed in cooperation with Union Pacific. The four types of Supplemental Safety Measures include:

  • Four-Quadrant Gate Systems
  • Medians or Channelization Devices
  • One-Way Streets with Gates
  • Permanent Closure

3. Fox Point has not had any accidents at the railroad crossing, why don't we get a 24 hour quiet zone?

The changes to the existing quiet zone would require an application for a new quiet zone and a review by the Federal Railroad Administration. Many items are considered in an application for a new quiet zone including the safety / risk to the public at a grade crossing (compared to national standards) along with safety measures in place at the grade crossing. Public authorities are responsible for the cost of preliminary engineering, construction, maintenance and replacement of active warning devices or their components, including wayside horn systems installed at crossings to meet quiet zone standards.

Examples of costs as estimated by Union Pacific:

  • Four-Quadrant Gate Systems - $300,000 to $500,000
  • Basic Active Warning System* - $185,000 to $400,000 (*Includes Flashing Lights and Gates, Constant Warning Time, Power Out Indicator and Cabin.)
  • Basic Inter-Connect - $5,000 to $15,000
  • Annual Maintenance - $4,000 to $10,000

4. The train is sounding the horn in the quiet zone. Will the police department issue tickets to the railroad?

Historically the police department would follow-up on any concerns brought forward regarding the railroads violation of the quiet zone. A change to the federal rules took the authority from the municipality and transferred the responsibility to the Federal Railroad Administration. The contact information to file a complaint with the railroad is: 

Tina Blumenberg
Railroad Safety Specialist
(Grade Crossing Safety/Trespass Prevention)

Federal Railroad Administration - District 4
200 West Adams Street
Chicago, Illinois 60606

Email Tina Blumenberg
(312) 502-1605 Work

5. I usually take a shortcut along the railroad tracks. Can I walk on the tracks or be under the bridge adjacent to the railroad tracks?

No. The railroad owns all of the property adjacent to the tracks and prohibits anyone from being on the property. This is primarily for the safety of the public. Trains take a long distance to stop and can not avoid people who might be on or adjacent to the tracks. The Union Pacific Railroad has requested Fox Point Police take enforcement action against people who might be on the tracks.

6. I want to know more about these rules and how Fox Point can silence the railroad horns.

  • The current Fox Point ordinance that establishes the hours of our quiet zone are outlined in village code 670-3.
  • The Federal Railroad Administration has a website dedicated to quiet zones.  
  • Union Pacific Railroad explains quiet zones on this website.  
  • The Federal Code governing railroad quiet zones can be found at 49 CR 222. A shortcut to the Federal Register is available from the FRA website.