Quiet Zone

The Town of Normal has established a railroad Quiet Zone working with the US Department of Transportation and the Federal Railroad Administration. The Town also worked closely with the Illinois Commerce Commission, Illinois Department of Transportation, the Union Pacific Railroad, and Amtrak to ensure adherence to the federal government's "Train Horn Rule."  The Town's Quiet Zone went into effect January 8, 2018.

What Is a Quiet Zone?

According to the US Department of Transportation, Federal Railroad Administration (FRA), a quiet zone is a segment of a rail line at which locomotive horns are not routinely sounded.


Amtrak passenger train at Uptown Station

Will we still hear train horns in the Quiet Zone?

Yes. A Quiet Zone does not mean you will never hear train horns. The name Quiet Zone means that train crews will not regularly blow the horn as a warning of the train’s approach to the crossings. There are numerous reasons you may hear a train horn.

  • The crossing warning devices (lights, bells and gates) are malfunctioning
  • The warning devices are out-of-service for repair, testing, or maintenance
  • Railroad or contract employees are working on or near the tracks
  • The train crew may sound a warning to animals, vehicle operators, pedestrians, trespassers, crews on other trains
  • Passenger train crews may sound their horn upon arrival to a station to alert passengers standing too close to the platform
  • Passenger trains may sound the horn to alert passengers of departure
  • The engineer believes such action is appropriate in order to prevent imminent injury, death, or property damage

The Quiet Zone does not limit the use of locomotive bells that ring as the train goes through the crossing. These bells are an additional safety measure. Also, in a Quiet Zone, each public crossing must be equipped with functioning flashing lights, ringing bells, and gates that lower to temporarily close the road. Again, Federal law requires that these warning devices are working as intended.

What is the process for establishing a Quiet Zone?

The FRA’s Train Horn Final Rule (49CFR222) went into effect on June 24, 2005. Along with establishing a national protocol for horn use, it enables communities to establish quiet zones by reducing the risk caused by lack of horns. The rule identifies several ways communities may silence the regular use of horns at crossings.

One way is by installing safety improvements which may include a combination of railroad gates, flashers, upgraded railroad circuitry, raised medians, and other engineered solutions that provide visual, audible and physical warnings that a train is approaching. Four-quadrant gates, which are present throughout Normal, are approved safety measures that reduce risk at crossings by blocking all lanes of highway traffic.

How were the safety improvements in Normal funded?

The safety improvements at railroad crossings throughout the Town of Normal were completed as part of the Illinois High-Speed Rail project. This project was supported in part by funding from the Transportation Investment Generating Economic Recovery (TIGER) Program, the Federal Railways Administration’s High-Speed Intercity Passenger Rail (HSIPR) Program, and additional funds appropriated in the Illinois Capitol Bill.

Why has train noise increased in recent years?

Trains have sounded horns or whistles as they approach crossings as a safety measure for more than a century. In the 1980's, Florida imposed a horn ban and the Federal Railroad Administration (FRA) noted a significant increase in grade crossing accidents. As a result, over the years, the FRA and Congress have developed rules requiring that trains sound their horn at all highway crossings nationwide.

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 Federal rule specifies the volume, length, and pattern of the sound of train horns.

Safety Tips

Even with safety improvements in place, rail safety is important. Per Operation Lifesaver, in Illinois last year, there were 120 incidents at public at-grade crossings in which 22 people lost their lives. Paying attention and obeying posted signs and signals can help prevent needless deaths of family, friends, and loved ones. Parents are encouraged to talk to their children about train and rail safety and make it clear that they are never to play near the tracks or walk across tracks except at designated crossings.

  • Railroad tracks, trestles, yards, and equipment are private property. Walking or playing on them is not only dangerous, it's illegal. Trespassers can be arrested and fined.
  • Anyone crossing the tracks should turn off electronic devices including cell phones and music players. Headphones or earbuds should be removed to ensure focus is on any trains that may be approaching.
  • You must stop when signals begin to flash. Pedestrians, bicyclists, and vehicles should not proceed until warning lights stop flashing.
  • Always expect a train. Trains can run on any track, at any time, in either direction. Look both ways before crossing any track and always observe warning signals.
  • Don’t be tempted to try to beat a train. An approaching train may be closer and traveling faster than it appears.
  • Railroads in Normal are patrolled by both Union Pacific Police and Town of Normal Police. If you see anyone on the tracks, call the Normal Police Department at (309) 888-5030.

For more safety tips, visit the Operation Lifesaver website at www.oli.org

Public Outreach & Additional Information

Operation Lifesaver 

FRA Highway-Rail Safety Dashboard

More Safety Tips and Trends

Train Horn Complaint

Although you may hear a train horn, there are many reasons train crews (locomotive engineers and conductors) may sound the horn. If you can see the tracks, from your vantage point you may not perceive a danger, however please note the train crew's view is completely different from yours.

If you believe you have heard a possible violation, please report it by selecting the link below.

Train Horn Complaint Form