Downtown Vancouver - Train Horn Noise

Possible quiet zone improvements have been identified in the downtown area and include the railroad crossings at West Eighth, Jefferson, and West 11th streets.

The downtown area was not initially studied due to the lack of funding and conflicts with using a Local Improvement District in a commercially-zoned land use area. In 2007, City Council directed staff to prepare a feasibility study for a downtown quiet zone. Since that time, new developments with other road and rail work have been identified as a solution.

West Eighth Street Railroad Crossing

The West Eight Street at-grade crossing was closed permanently in January 2013. This long-term, full quiet zone improvement came from the completion of both the Waterfront Access Project and WSDOT’s Vancouver Rail Bypass Project.

Jefferson Street Railroad Crossing

The Jefferson Street at-grade rail crossing closed permanently in August 2013. This came about with the opening a new underpass from Sixth/Grant to Seventh/Jefferson and the closure of Jefferson Street between Eighth and Ninth streets as part of the City's Roadway Phase of the Waterfront Access project.

West 11th Street Railroad Crossing

Previously, plans for a quiet zone has been proposed with two gates, a median and driveway closure at Lincoln and West 11th Street. Unfortunately, these solutions to treat the existing crossing and implement a quiet zone were quiet costly. Medians were found not feasible given driveway and loading accesses needs. Also, the gate solution was over $0.5 million. A future treatment could include a wayside horn, but that is estimated at $200,000 at this time. A wayside horn is a directional horn installed at the crossing that replaces use of the locomotive horn.

A complication at this location is that a quiet zone will not eliminate other train horn noise that originates in very close proximity. The railroad yard area immediately to the north also generates considerable train horn noise, most of which is required under the federal law requirements and cannot be overridden by a quiet zone. There is also another lower volume crossing just the southwest at Hill Street for trains that come across the railroad bridge and head south. That crossing also was investigated, and, like 11th Street, inexpensive solutions were not feasible. Accordingly, train horn noise from the yard and Hill Street crossing would still continue even with a quiet zone at the 11th Street crossing reducing the overall effectiveness/benefit of a costly treatment solution at 11th Street. The combination of these factors led to a decision to not pursue further work on the 11th Street crossing at this time.