Are Metrolink trains too loud?
Claremont is getting a new subcommittee to find a solution to the ear-piercing sound of passing trains.
The Claremont City Council voted unanimously to create the subcommittee—which will be comprised of three Traffic and Transportation Commission (TTC) members who will work with city staff toward a possible quiet zone—during Tuesday night’s council meeting.
The original recommendation, spearheaded by TTC Commissioner Zachary Courser during their June 23 meeting, was to create an ad hoc committee. The council later decided that creating a subcommittee of three TTC commissioners would be more apt.
The members of the subcommittee will be announced during the next TTC meeting on July 28, according to commission chair Chuck Gerlach.
The responsibilities of the subcommittee are manifold: to create an actionable plan on the possibility of installing quiet zones throughout the city, work on a detailed budget for the implementation of safety measures to go with the quiet zones, work on a timeline for construction, contact neighboring cities for possible cost-sharing opportunities and to work as a liaison to the community, according to City Engineer Loretta Mustafa.
Part of the staff recommendation is the allocation of Proposition A funds—$45,000—to go toward funding the project: $25,000 for a quiet zone feasibility study and $20,000 for analysis of the federal train horn rule.
The Federal Railway Authority (FRA) is currently undergoing a review of their train horn rule, and Claremont is seizing the opportunity to lobby the FRA to lessen the residential impact of the horns. Mayor Sam Pedroza and City Manager Tony Ramos will travel to Washington, DC in September to work with the FRA on a possible change, according to Ms. Mustafa.
Mr. Gerlach told the council that a subcommittee is needed to assuage a critical issue that has impacted the lives of Claremonters living at or near the railroad tracks.
“The crux of what occurred at the TTC meeting last time was [consensus on] a need to be proactive on this topic, not reactive,” he said. “You’ve seen other communities be in a reactive state, but Claremont’s a leader. We ought to be proactive.”
The approval comes months after Metrolink trains across southern California were attached to Burlington Northern and Santa Fe (BNSF) engines as a safety precaution following a fatal 2015 crash in Oxnard. The BNSF trains have a higher-decibel “five-chime” horn positioned higher on the engine, as opposed to the lower-decibel “three-chime” horn on Metrolink trains.
The louder horns have caused an increase in noise—and aggravation—throughout the city. Metrolink representatives were apologetic during the June 23 TTC meeting, and said they would start phasing out the BNSF trains on the San Bernardino Line beginning in September.
Ms. Mustafa told the council the most accepted way to mitigate the risk of an accident is the use of supplementary safety measures (SSM), including four-quadrant gates. Metro Transit Authority (MTA) already plans to build four-quadrant gates at each Claremont crossing as part of the upcoming Gold Line extension.
Metro also factored into a possible funding mechanism, as Ms. Mustafa said money from the upcoming Gold Line project could pay for the SSMs. This could present a problem for residents, as the quiet zones may not be implemented until 2023 if no other funding sources are found.
In addition, the money from Metro hinges on an upcoming ballot measure, Measure R2, which would allow a countywide half-cent sales tax to allocate funds for upcoming Metro projects.
Once Claremont decides to create a quiet zone, Ms. Mustafa explained, the liability in the event of an accident is on the city.
The question of whether to approve the ad hoc committee as outlined in the staff report or to instead create a subcommittee was raised. Councilmember Opanyi Nasiali did not see the need to create an ad hoc committee on the issue.
“I don’t understand why we need a committee to do what the staff is already doing,” Mr. Nasiali said.
An ad hoc committee consists of an appointed group of people—including residents—to work on a specific project, while a subcommittee is comprised of members of an already existing committee, in this case the Traffic and Transportation Commission.
Mr. Courser responded that the committee was created because there is a lot of “energy” from residents who want to eliminate train noise.
“Families, colleagues, friends, we’ve had students and children come up here and talk about how their quality of life was extremely negatively impacted,” Mr. Courser said.
The rest of the council determined a subcommittee was the best option.
“The committee may look at it and there might not be an immediate answer, but that’s all right, let’s go through the process and see what it brings,” Councilmember Larry Schroeder said.
The council voted unanimously in favor of the subcommittee, 5-0.
Brad McKinney heads to Rosemead
The council also revealed the departure of longtime Assistant to the City Manager Brad McKinney, who is leaving Claremont for a job as the Assistant City Manager of Rosemead.
Mr. McKinney, apparently taken aback at the surprise announcement, received an award from the city and thanked the council for a “truly wonderful experience here in Claremont.”
“Claremont’s a unique and wonderful place and I’m going to miss it,” he said.
Mr. Pedroza noted that it is a big loss for the city but a big gain for Rosemead and Mr. McKinney, and remarked about his big promotion.
“All you have to do now is cross out the ‘to,’” Mr. Pedroza said of Mr. McKinney’s new title.
The next city council meeting will be on July 26.