Railroad Safety: Quiet Zone Analyses and Inspections Could Be Improved, Report to Congressional Addressees [open pdf - 3MB]
From the Highlights: "Accidents at grade crossings are a major source of fatalities in the railroad industry. FRA [Federal Railroad Administration]--the federal agency responsible for providing regulatory oversight of grade-crossing safety---issued regulations on the use of train horns in 2005. Railroads generally support sounding the horn, whereas, communities often support quiet zones to reduce noise. Congress included a provision in statute for GAO [Government Accountability Office] to examine FRA's train horn regulations, including those on quiet zones. Among other things, this report: (1) describes benefits and costs of quiet zones, and (2) examines how FRA evaluates the effectiveness of its train horn regulations. GAO analyzed FRA's documentation on quiet zones, including FRA's train horn regulations and 2011 and 2013 studies on quiet zone safety; reviewed literature; and interviewed FRA program officials in headquarters, Grade Crossing Managers in FRA's 8 regions, and a nongeneralizable sample of another 32 stakeholders from 6 states, railroads, public authorities, and private industry consulting firms. State and public authorities were selected based on the number of quiet zones, geographic diversity, and FRA's recommendations. [...] GAO recommends that FRA: (1) revise its methodology for analyzing the safety of quiet zones, and (2) develop guidance on conducting quiet zone inspections. The Department of Transportation partially concurred with the first recommendation, saying it would consider it, and fully concurred with the second. GAO continues to believe changes to the methodology are needed, as discussed in the report."
Government Accountability Office: http://www.gao.gov/