May 27, 2018
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Northwestern testing will bring noise to train tracks

  • Northwestern Pacific Railroad will conduct Positive Train Control testing throughout April, which will result in train horn noise in areas that are not part of SMART'S established quiet zones, such as the Haystack Bridge area shown in Petaluma. Robert Grant

By: Katherine Minkiewicz
April 6, 2018

Sonoma Marin Area Rail Transit announced last week that freight operator Northwestern Pacific Railroad will begin conducting Positive Train Control testing on SMART owned tracks in Novato, Rohnert Park, Petaluma and the Santa Rosa area, resulting in train horn sounds during the overnight hours.

The company has to begin testing its Positive Train Control System on Tuesdays, Wednesdays and Fridays in order to meet Federal Railroad Administration requirements, according to a news release from SMART.

Northwestern Pacific Railroad, which does typically operate on portions of track owned by SMART, will conduct all of its tests when the SMART trains are not in operation.

“The freight operator will begin its first phase of testing between Hanna Ranch Road in Novato and SMART’s Haystack Bridge in Petaluma. During this phase of testing, the use of the locomotive’s train horn will be required at all crossings that are not a part of established quiet zones,” the news release stipulates.

This includes crossings north of the Rush Creek Place neighborhood in Novato and through the Haystack Bridge in Petaluma. Testing will take place between 9:30 p.m. and 4 a.m. and on Saturdays and Sundays between 9:30 p.m. and 9 a.m. through mid-April.

Testing will then continue on north to Cotati, Rohnert Park, Santa Rosa and parts of Windsor. The freight testing schedule for that phase will be updated and available to view on SMART’s website at, www.sonomamarintrain.org.

Northwestern estimates that it will take up to six months to complete the testing on the positive train control.

Positive train control is an advanced system that can automatically stop a train before certain accidents can occur. According to Union Pacific, the system is also designed to help prevent train-on-train collisions, derailments due to excessive speed, unauthorized train entry into work zones and train movements due to misaligned track.

For Northwestern’s control system testing, SMART is reminding Sonoma and Marin County residents and the public to always remain alert at or near a railroad crossing  

For more train and train track safety tips visit, www.betracksafe.org.