Things are about to get a lot quieter around the train tracks in Utah County.
Less than two weeks prior to the opening of the FrontRunner South commuter rail service, the Federal Rail Administration has approved UTA's request for the line of tracks that runs from Salt Lake to Provo to be a quiet zone.
"It should get a lot quieter for those who live within a few miles of the tracks," said Gerry Carpenter, spokesman for UTA.
Under the quiet zone status, UTA, Amtrak and Union Pacific trains using the rails are no longer required to sound their horn when coming upon a railroad crossing located along the 45-mile line of tracks.
Train engineers still are allowed to sound their horns if they see a need to alert someone ahead that a train is approaching, but they are not required to trigger the horn when simply coming upon a crossing.
Carpenter explained that UTA went to extensive measures to improve the safety around each railroad crossing, which enabled the rail line to receive the quiet zone status. The safety measures around the crossings include raised concrete medians to prevent people from going around the crossing arms, blinking lights at each crossing and bells that sound when the arms are in use.
UTA also added pedestrian safety measures, not required for the quiet zone status, to make the crossings safer for pedestrians and bicyclists. Fencing was added to force pedestrians to zigzag through so people will have more time to observe the tracks prior to arriving at the crossing point, giving them more time to see if a train is approaching.
Carpenter also calls the quiet zone a win for the neighborhoods around the railroad tracks as they no longer will hear the blaring horn noise late at night or early in the morning. He noted plenty of noise will still be made by the bells at the crossing gates but they are designed to be more directional so only the cars and pedestrians on the road near the crossing will hear them.
"It is much more targeted," he said.
The quiet zone is receiving praise from locals, as many are happy to hear that they soon won't hear the train horns as often. Provo Mayor John Curtis called the quiet zone good news for Provo residents who live near the rails.
"Thanks to the hard work of many over a long period of time, our residents now get to enjoy an even higher quality of life. New York can be the city that never sleeps. We appreciate peace and quiet in Provo," Curtis said.
Utah County Commissioner Larry Ellertson, who is a member of UTA's board of trustees, also praised the quiet zone and asked that Utah County residents remain cognizant of the trains to ensure their own safety and the safety of those riding the trains.
"This does not take away the need for people to be cautious around the railroad tracks," Ellertson said. "I would caution people to make sure they pay attention to the signals."
FrontRunner trains have been traveling up and down the 45-mile stretch of track from Provo to Salt Lake doing test runs for the grand opening of the line on Dec. 10. Once opened FrontRunner will make four stops in Utah County in Provo, Orem, American Fork and Lehi. An additional stop is planned for Vineyard, which will open at a later date.