Quiet Zone

Construction of safety-related improvements at the five at-grade railroad crossings in the coastal rail trail corridor. The specific crossings are Surfrider Avenue, Mission Avenue, Wisconsin Street, Oceanside Blvd, and Cassidy Street.

Project Manager: David Toschak, (760) 435-5106 or DToschak@oceansideca.org

Project #: CIP14-00013

Program: Transnet

Current Phase: Construction - See Below for Updates

Duration: Project Start October 2014, with target completion of February 2021



The majority of the additional work approved by City Council in October 2020 is complete. Residents and commuters now use the walkway constructed from the Oceanside Transit Center to Mission Avenue. While construction only took weeks in November the coordination effort to allow the work was extensive. This new walkway was necessary because of the numerous people trespassing on NCTD right-of-way to get to the station. The trespassers prompted the sounding of train horns in addition to the sounding required for the Mission Ave. crossing. The active gates combined with the new walkway will improve the effectiveness of the Quiet Zone where the sounding of horns between the recently constructed buildings has been reported as unbearable by residents.

The large foundations for the new traffic signal at the Mission/Myers intersection located just several hundred feet from the railroad crossing were constructed in December. The new buildings, utilities that supply those building and proposed City waterlines created many conflicts that were resolved in the field. The poles, mast arms, and signal heads for intersection, ordered and paid for in April 2020 began arriving to the City’s maintenance yard in mid-December. Pre-ordering the equipment saved countless months during these COVID conditions. Also in December the City, NCTD and SDGDE, with help from design consultants worked through the conflicts that allowed SDG&E to provide electricity to the new signal and railroad equipment hut.

While the good weather allowed construction of the improvements, the City, NCTD, FRA and CPUC continued to coordinate the establishment of the quiet zone through telephone calls and virtual meeting as the various representatives, worked from home, managed their health through ongoing COVID conditions and tried to normalized their holidays. All agencies involved have worked as a team to establish the quiet zone but this update brings the news of a later establishment of the quiet zone by approximately a month and a half; mid-February 2021.

With a cursory review by the FRA and an additional preliminary NCTD review of the Quiet Zone Application complete, the formal application was submitted to the FRA in December with confidence. Attempts by staff are now being made expedite the standard 60-day review period. Following the application approval, a 21-day period is needed to “turn on the quiet zone switch” (train system programming and orders, posting “No Train Horn” signs, etc.).

A review of past updates will find that a major factor in delays through 2020 was that the original improvements planned in 2016 no longer meet the current FRA Risk Index threshold. The application submitted in December included an Oceanside risk index calculation the well exceeds the FRA threshold. A simplified explanation for a sense of this accomplishment is tabulated as:


The coordination and construction considered in early 2020 to address the current FRA requirements appear to have maintained effectiveness and is why staff is confident that the quiet zone will be in effect in early 2021.



Staff has submitted a draft of the application to the Federal Railroad Administration southwest section representative for review comments.  Increases in construction, engineering, and railroad oversight cost were approved by the City Council  October 7.  The contractor has scheduled crews to return the week of October 19, 2020.  The work through December 2020 includes: incorporating an NCTD pedestrian crossing at the south end of the Oceanside Transit Center (OTC), constructing a walkway with adequate warning devices in the railroad right of way from Mission Ave to the OTC platform, median reconstruction from the Mission Ave crossing to Myers St. and a traffic signal at Mission/Myers intersection.  Weather permitting in November and December and with concurrent approval of the revised application followed by the Notice of Establishment for the quiet zone, establishment is anticipated by the end of January 2021.


This month in anticipation of reapplying for the pending Quiet Zone, staff is updating the Federal Railroad Administration (FRA), Quiet Zone Risk Indices Calculation. The design for the Railroad Safety Improvements Project was based on a 2016 calculation that met the 2016 FRA Risk Threshold. Calculation performed in March 2020 and April 2020 found the completed improvements did not meet the current FRA Risk Threshold because of changes traffic patterns, traffic volumes, train speeds, number of trains, suicides and accidents that shifted risk along the five (5) NCTD grade crossings. The re-application updates site conditions and adds risk reduction factors that should meet the current RFA Risk Threshold.

After quiet zone establishment, train engineers will sound horns as they determine necessary for safe operations. To establish the most effective quiet zone in which the sounding of horns is minimized, an evaluation of ongoing downtown development impacts on the quiet zone began in 2019. Three improvements have been identified to minimize the need for the sounding of horns in the established quiet zone.

1) The SPRINTER operates from the Oceanside Transit Center (OTC) on the NCTD Escondido Subdivision.  The COASTER, METROLINK, Amtrak, BNSF, and Pacific Sun Railroad operate on the San Diego Subdivision. The quiet zone is being established on the San Diego Subdivision. In December 2018 NCTD informed the City that the California Public Utilities Commission (CPUC) required SPRINTER to sound horns at an existing pedestrian crossing at the south end of the OTC.

At the beginning of this year, NCTD prioritized an extension of that crossing. The proposed extension of the pedestrian crossing beyond the second Escondido Subdivision track to the San Diego Subdivision passenger platform will increase the frequency of horns. NCTD has scheduled construction of the extension for early 2021 and completion is estimated by July 2021. Warning devices and gates are included in the prioritized work. The FRA and CPUC have indicated that the addition of quiet zone signs at the location are adequate to Incorporate this SPRINTER pedestrian crossing in to the San Diego Subdivision Quiet Zone pending review of the application.

For the interim, NCTD, FRA, CPUC and the City are evaluating an operations change for the Sprinter Pedestrian Crossing that would allow establishment of the quiet zone by the end of this year. NCTD has considered limiting horns to the first and last scheduled trains as each train enters the side track to be parked overnight. The FRA’s interruption of their horn rule found the limited sounding of the horn is a violation. Discussions of a more appropriate operating rule continue.

2) Trespassing on the tracks between the Missions Avenue grade crossing and the OTC platform is cause for increased horns between the new buildings. A new sidewalk, fencing, and additional warning devices have been designed to minimize horns that appear to be amplified by the new buildings. The sidewalk was not an original requirement for the quiet zone but will increase the effectiveness of the established quiet zone. With approval from NCTD, this work could be completed by fall this year.

3) The projection of increased traffic at the intersection of Mission Avenue and Myers Street just west of the Mission Avenue grade crossing warrants a traffic signal. Given the close proximity to the tracks, the signal must be coordinated or “queued” with the crossing gates to allow any traffic congestion to clear the tracks before train crosses the street. The City has purchased the traffic signal poles and arms which will take 26-30 weeks to fabricate and deliver for erection by the end of the year.


Many Oceanside residents ask if train horn volumes can be lowered, or if the duration of the horn can be shorten, or if the direction of the horns could be changed. The City cannot influence the rule for how a train horn is sounded. Train horn requirements can be found at the Federal Railroad Administration site for the Train Horn Rule:


The intent of the quiet zone is to change where a train horn is sounded.

Quiet Zone Flow Chart

The establishment of the Quiet Zone remains on the current schedule for the end of 2020.






The Quiet Zone was scheduled for establishment originally in June 2019.  In July 2019 the Federal Railroad Administration (FRA) and California Public Utilities Commission  (CPUC) inspected the improvements and requested additional work. That additional work was completed early April 2020 and quiet zone establishment was scheduled for end of April.


COVID19 has restricted the regulatory agencies travel but not before they were able to recently visit the site. The work per the plans approved by Council and inspected by the regulatory agencies is acceptable, but a change in risk at each of the five crossings in the proposed Quiet Zone has required a re-assessment of the now completed work before submitting the Notice of Establishment.  Risk as determined by the FRA is different and changes at each grade crossing because of changes in traffic patterns and volumes, pedestrian crossing and access, the number and speed of trains, accidents and amended regulations. Establishment does not guarantee a quiet zone in perpetuity.  Re-assessments to address the changing risks will be required every two years to maintain the Quiet Zone.   


Future SPRINTER improvements being proposed by NCTD; the accumulative effect of three suicides (4/17 and 12/8 in 2019 and 3/1/2020) and a car/train accident (4/2/2020) in the last year; combined with the change in risk, could result in the denial of the zone by the regulatory agencies or a termination shortly after establishment.  Quiet Zones have been terminated and suspended in southern California before, so that is a real possibility in Oceanside too.  City staff continues to work with FRA, CPUC, NCTD, AMTRAK, BNSF, SPRINTER, COASTER, METROLINK and other effected agencies toward an efficient, long lasting, Quiet Zone which will minimize the need to sound horns in Oceanside.  The extent of delays as the agencies work to address the accumulative effect of changes and improvements has not been determined at this time.  Engineering Staff regularly informs the City Manager’s Office of changes during this high priority project.


Please be informed the City’s Quiet Zone, once established is subject to the rules of the operating railroads and engineers call to sound the horns in the zone as they deem necessary based on their training and experience.  The City expects trains will sound their horns for up to a year after establishment as both engineers and the public become familiar with the new improvements.




The Railroad Safety Improvements required by the FRA and CPUC in addition to the approved plans will be complete by the end of this month.  With work scheduled for completion, in January a second Notice of Intent of a Quiet Zone was sent certified mail to the 16 agencies for comments.  Following NOI concurrence, a Notice of Establishment (NOE) for a Quiet Zone will be sent to the North County Transit  District (NCTD) to activate the new zone.  It has been observed by NCTD’s consultants that during the first year some quiet zone train horn activity may occur more often but will taper off below the historic levels.


Project Manager David Toschak,

Tel: (760) 435-5106,

Email: dtoschak@oceansideca.org




Railroad Safety Improvements (CIP Project # CIP14-00013)  is currently under construction.

The Railroad Safety Improvements per the Plans and Specifications approved by City Council in February 2017 were completed in spring 2019.  The completed Railroad Crossing Safety Improvements were necessary for a Quiet Zone.  The Quiet Zone reduces but does not eliminate the need for the blowing of train horns; that is determined by the train engineer and NCTD policy. This summer, the City sent 60-day Notice of Establishment (NOE) the Quiet Zone to NCTD (owner), FRA and CPUC (regulatory agencies) upon the completion of the work.  The notice prompted a review of the completed improvements by the FRA and CPUC but resulted in additional improvements required by the regulatory agencies.  Given the additional work and a requirement for a second NOE, staff anticipates implementation of the Quiet Zone in February 2020.

Project Manager: Gary Kellison Retired at the end of October 2019.  The Project Management has been assigned to David Toschak,

Tel: (760) 435-5106,

Email: dtoschak@oceansideca.org







Railroad Safety Improvements (CIP Project # CIP14-00013)  is currently under construction.



City Council approves payment of $401,000 to NCTD for construction support services for the railroad crossing safety improvements.   Field construction begins.


City Council awards a $3.1 million contract to Balfour Beatty to construct the safety improvements that are prerequisite to implementing a “Quiet Zone” along Oceanside’s coastal rail corridor.


California Public Utilities Commission (PUC) grants Oceanside authorization to construct railroad grade crossing improvements


City Council authorizes up $5 million in future commercial paper borrowing authority to complete railroad safety improvement.


City Council accepts a $1 million grant from the California Department of Transportation to construct safety-related improvement at the Mission Avenue coastal railroad crossing.


City Council approves a Professional Services Agreement to develop construction drawings for railroad crossing and related safety improvements for a “Quiet Zone” along Oceanside’s coastal rail corridor.  It is anticipated that the construction drawings will take approximately one year to complete.


Staff Report - Service agreement for RR Quiet Zone Project  (4.5 MB )

Staff commences the process of a third diagnostic meeting in order to: identify quiet zone alternatives with their respective costs, establish a road map to implement a quiet zone (partial and/or full), and commence with Federal Railroad Administration (FRA) submittals. It is anticipated that the completion of this effort will take approximately six months.

An adequate funding source to construct quiet zone improvements has not been secured. Therefore, the quiet zone project is on hold until sufficient funding is obtained.

NCTD staff has provided design review comments which have been incorporated into the overall redesign effort. Current economic conditions and a lack of interest by benefitting property owners to form an assessment district, preclude the City’s ability to construct improvements for all five crossings (Surfrider Way, Mission Avenue, Wisconsin Avenue, Oceanside Boulevard, and Cassidy Street) along the NCTD main line rail. However, the City of Oceanside and City of San Clemente executed a Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) agreement in effort to cooperatively establish a quiet zone. A primary objective of the MOU is to obtain funding which would implement a partial quiet zone over Oceanside’s northerly rail crossings (Surfrider Way and Mission Avenue). Progress toward implementation of a partial or complete quiet zone will be deferred until adequate funding is secured.

Quiet Zone Council Staff Report, Item 8, September 9, 2009 (1.03 MB)

Progress concerning the quiet zone redesign has been halted due to an extended delay during the design review stage. City staff continues to wait for comments from railroad representatives. Once the required comments are provided, redesign activities may resume. The final phase of the redesign is a staff presentation to City Council. Timing of the public presentation is contingent upon completion of the redesign; which in turn is dependent upon the outstanding design review comments. No response has been provided; therefore, a time frame is not established. Staff intends to remain persistent in effort to resume progress.

City staff has moved forward on the quiet zone redesign. However, progress has been halted due to a delay during the design review stage. City staff is waiting for comments by railroad representatives. Once the required comments are provided, redesign activities may resume. The final phase of the redesign is a staff presentation to City Council. Timing of the public presentation is dependent upon completion of the redesign; which in turn is reliant upon the outstanding design review comments.

City staff is conducting a second quiet zone diagnostic meeting. Since the November 2006 diagnostic meeting, notable changes have occurred. It is anticipated that the second meeting will address design modifications which will reduce the overall cost of implementation. A revised preliminary quiet zone design should be completed in June 2008; staff will provide an update to City Council after the completion this effort.

City staff intends to conduct a second quiet zone diagnostic meeting. Since the November 2006 diagnostic meeting, significant revisions to quiet zone requirements have occurred. It is anticipated that the second diagnostic meeting will address design modifications that may reduce the overall cost of implementation. A revised preliminary quiet zone design is anticipated to be completed during the second quarter 2008; staff can provide an update to Council at that time.

Status – Based upon response from the assessment district survey, staff is searching for alternative funding sources, examining configuration options, and evaluating the possibility of implementing a phased approach. It is anticipated that a status report may be provided to Council during the first quarter of 2008.

Quiet Zone Survey Map (2.4 MB)

Quiet Zone Assessment District Survey (18 KB)

Quiet Zone Council Staff Report, Item 15, May 2, 2007 (1 MB)

The quiet zone presentation to City Council has been re-scheduled to occur on May 2, 2007. The following links provide access to quiet zone conceptual design documents prepared by the City's consultant (RailPros, Inc.).


The quiet zone NOI was sent out February 8, 2007; presentation to the City Council is currently scheduled for April 2007.

In October 2006, City Staff contacted North County Transit District (NCTD) and indicated that the City desired to move forward with the development of a quiet zone along the NCTD main line within City limits. The crossings included within the proposed quiet zone are Surfrider Way, Mission Avenue, Wisconsin Avenue, Oceanside Boulevard, and Cassidy Street. On November 1, 2007, a diagnostic meeting was held between the City, NCTD, Burlington Northern Santa Fe (BNSF) Railway, Metrolink, Amtrak, and the California Public Utility Commission (CPUC); at the meeting, improvements required to implement a quiet zone were determined for the subject crossings.

The City has developed a draft Notice of Intent (NOI) to Establish a New Quiet Zone document; this official document is required by Federal Railroad Administration (FRA) regulations in order to establish a new quiet zone. The NOI informs all railroad operators and governing authorities of the City's desire to establish a new quiet zone, as well as institutes an official 60-day comment period. The draft NOI is currently being reviewed by the City Attorney's Office and is anticipated to be finalized and transmitted in early February 2007.

A total project cost estimate to implement the subject quiet zone, including conceptual exhibits for each crossing, is currently being developed. It is anticipated that both will be presented to City Council for consideration by March 2007. Completion of a final design and ultimate construction of the quiet zone is contingent upon executing agreements with NCTD, obtaining funding, and City Council action.