Robert F. Phillips, P.E,
Quiet Zones in the City of Madison
According to the Federal Railroad Administration, in Wisconsin, a train engineer (driver) is required to blow its horn prior to any crossing for safety precautions, unless the crossing is within a Federally Approved “Quiet Zone.”
A “Quiet Zone” is a designated stretch of land, at least a half mile long, where when trains enter, they are not required to blow the train horn, unless an emergency.
Outside of Quiet Zones, trains must sound the horn 15-20 seconds prior to a train’s arrival at the highway-rail grade crossing, but not more than 1/4 mile in advance of the crossing.
In Madison, there are 85 at-grade railroad crossings. As of January 2020, 29 of 88 crossings are located inside of a quiet zone.
Quiet Zones are approved after an application process and significant funding.
Typically, an upgrade to an area to install all necessary upgrades with equipment for a Quiet Zone costs roughly $250,000 per crossing.
A Quiet Zone must be a minimum of ½ mile in length along the rail corridor.
The City can create Quiet Zones with proper process, and the City can encourage the railroad to improve railroad crossing surfaces. The City’s influence on railroad operations is limited and Federal law, in many instances, gives railroads discretion to operate as they feel necessary. Federal law preempts local ordinances related to the length of time a railroad crossing can be blocked by a train. The City has no real influence on what time of day a train operates. The City will forward any comments or complaints that it receives to the operating railroad.
What is a Quiet Zone?
Where are Quiet Zones?
Current Quiet Zones
Potential Quiet Zones Currently Not Scheduled
(all of the following documents are PDFs)
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