Sleepless in San Jose? Trains rattle neighbors overnight

SAN JOSE, Calif. (KGO) -- An increase in overnight train traffic in recent months has left some San Jose residents sleepless because of the accompanying horn noise.

"Starting at the beginning of the year, we've been hearing trains passing by at 3 a.m., sometimes twice in the middle of the night," said Japantown resident Gwen Chao. "It wakes you up."

Union Pacific says the new traffic pattern aims to reduce the amount of idling locomotives, but the operating change has resulted in more trains at odd hours.

"They don't care if people need their sleep, and you know, they don't live here. They have no idea," said Chao.

Federal regulation requires that train horns be sounded for 15 to 20 seconds before entering all public grade crossings, but not more than one-quarter mile in advance, unless a quiet zone has been established. In this case, one doesn't exist in San Jose.

"I'll be like sitting and then all of a sudden I hear something loud, and then I'm like, what is that? And then I realize it's the train," said downtown resident Virginia Perez. "They just get louder and louder over the years."

However, relief might be on the way. Officials with the city's department of transportation are now exploring what it would take to get approval for a quiet zone from the Federal Railroad Administration.

"A consultant would study these crossings, make recommendations for safety measures. These would be things that would make it so the trains would not have to blow their horn as they went down the railroad corridor," said Colin Heyne, Transportation Dept. spokesperson.

The process could take several months. In the meantime, neighbors are hoping for a permanent fix sooner rather than later.

"Even when you insert in earplugs, and I do sleep with them sometimes, it still wakes you up," said Chao.

Congresswoman Zoe Lofgren has also gotten involved and is pushing for a quiet zone. Her office says the Federal Railroad Administration will soon be investigating the noise complaints.
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