Quiet Zones


A quiet zone is an FRA exemption to the Train Horn Rule (49 CFR 222) that requires trains to sound their horns when approaching grade crossings. Train operators are legally required to use horns under certain circumstances based on federal regulations and for safety purposes, meaning quiet zones aren’t always quiet. Quiet zones apply to freight and commuter rail.

Project Overview


Quiet zones are implemented along railroad segments to lessen the noise impact to neighborhoods closest to the tracks. But quiet zones may not always be quiet — many situations exist that require the use of train horns.

Reference these frequently asked questions, and sign up to receive more information about quiet zones here.

What is the Federal Railroad Administration (FRA) Train Horn Rule?

The FRA Train Horn Rule (49 CFR 222) requires a train operator to sound the horn under various circumstances including when a train is approaching and passing through a grade crossing. According to FRA rules, train horns must:

  • Be within 96 and 110 decibels, a sound level equivalent to that of a lawnmower
  • Be sounded at least 15 seconds but no more than 20 seconds before reaching a crossing
  • Be sounded no more than a quarter of a mile from a crossing if the train is traveling faster than 60 mph
  • Be sounded approaching persons on or near the track
  • Be sounded in a standardized pattern of 2 long, 1 short and 1 long blasts, which must be repeated or be prolonged until the lead cab car occupies the grade crossing

What safety measures have been put into place at rail crossings in preparation for quiet zones?

The following safety measures alert drivers and pedestrians to the presence of railroad tracks and help guide and regulate traffic when a train is approaching:

  • Audible and visual warnings, like bells and flashing red lights
  • Safety signage indicates where vehicles and pedestrians should stop
  • Gate arms and/or medians block lanes in both directions to prevent vehicles from driving around the lowered gates to cross the tracks
  • Pedestrian gate arms or pull swing gates at each intersection alert pedestrians that a train is approaching
  • Chain link fencing along the sidewalk channel pedestrians to the correct crossing area
  • All crossings are compliant with the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA)

How can I stay safe traveling through a quiet zone?

Be our partner in safety when traveling through quiet zones by doing the following:


  • Be prepared to stop at rail crossings
  • Understand and follow the crossing signs and warning devices
  • Do not proceed until the gate arms have fully risen
  • Pedestrian gate arms or pull swing gates at each intersection alert pedestrians that a train is approaching
  • Never race a train or stop on the tracks


  • Stay alert, don’t be distracted
  • Stop, look and listen for approaching trains
  • Follow all rail crossing signs and instructions
  • Cross only at designated pedestrian or roadway crossings

Why do I still hear trains horns in a quiet zone?

Many circumstances exist that require the use of train horns for safety purposes and based on federal regulations, including:

  • Work crews are on or near the tracks
  • An animal, pedestrian or vehicle has the potential affect train travel through a crossing
  • An emergency is believed to exist or could exist
  • A train is backing up or resuming operations after having stopped anywhere on the alignment (commuter and freight trains)
  • Routine software maintenance or repairs are occurring
  • There are issues with gate arm timing, freight train operations, Train Management Dispatch Systems (TMDS) or Positive Train Control (PTC)

What is Positive Train Control?

Positive Train Control (PTC) is a safety protection system that monitors and controls train movements to prevent train-to-train collisions, overspeed derailments, incursions into established work zone limits and movement of a trains through a misaligned switch. PTC will signal the operator to slow or stop the train if a hazard exists. If there is no response after eight seconds, the train will automatically slow or stop. RTD is the first transit agency in the nation to have wireless crossings joined to PTC.

How does RTD communicate with communities impacted by train horn noise?

RTD is committed to notifying communities about the expected timeframe for the use of train horns before planned work or maintenance that requires horns to blow. When unforeseen circumstances occur, RTD will notify communities about why horns are in use and when we expect them stop as soon as we are alerted of an ongoing issue. Issues will be resolved as quickly as possible to minimize the public impact.

What is best way for neighbors to contact RTD about train horn noise?

If there are questions or concerns about train horn usage, residents may contact RTD Customer Care online or at 303-299-6000. Information may not be available for every instance of train horn usage. Our Customer Care staff will make every best effort to respond to questions with the information available at the time. Staff may report certain incidents to the commuter rail operations for review and action as appropriate.