The City of Menlo Park currently has four at-grade crossings with Caltrain
- Ravenswood Avenue
- Oak Grove Avenue
- Glenwood Avenue
- Encinal Avenue
In addition, there is a pedestrian crossing located approximately 250 feet north of the Ravenswood crossing and an at-grade crossing at Palo Alto Avenue in Palo Alto, just across the city boundary, that requires trains to sound their horns in Menlo Park. The focus of this project will be on the four at-grade crossings within the City boundary of Menlo Park, but the City would like to understand the additional scope and cost required to expand the effort to include the Palo Alto Avenue crossing.
There is currently no existing railroad quiet zone within the City of Menlo Park. Without a quiet zone, the Federal Railroad Administration (FRA) requires all passenger and freight train to activate their horns four times: 2 long blasts, 1 short blast, then 1 long blast beginning ¼ mile before each crossing. The purpose of
these blasts is to warn vehicles approaching the crossings. Since only 1/5 of a mile separates each of Menlo Park’s four crossings, the four “1/4 mile before” horn blast sequences are repeated continuously, resulting in as many as 16 total blasts per passing train over the short span of 1.12 miles, depending on whether trains are stopping in Menlo Park. In practical terms, this can manifest as near continuous horn blasts with the maximum volume level for the train horn up to 110 decibels.
The City has received complaints from residents and business owners about the volumes, frequency, duration, and time frame of train horns. A quiet zone was requested to be implemented in the City of Menlo Park because quiet zone crossings are typically safer than standard crossings and are becoming increasingly common in populated areas. Atherton has a quiet zone on the Caltrain corridor and similar zones have recently been established across California (including in Marin County, Orange County, San Diego, Fremont and San Jose, among other locations).