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By Shawn Raymundo
A malfunction with the equipment used to test the city’s audible warning system for oncoming locomotives has further delayed hopes of reestablishing quiet zones along San Clemente’s train tracks, according to the Federal Railroad Administration.
A planned inspection of the system in mid-December had to be postponed, derailing any chance that safety regulators with the FRA this week would consider the city’s request to renew the five-year waiver that allowed for the quiet zones in the first place.
In an email to San Clemente Times on Monday, Jan. 11, Warren Flatau, the FRA’s deputy director of public affairs, said that the device the city uses to measure the system’s decibel levels failed during the Dec. 15 inspection.
“At that time, FRA suspended the inspection and all parties agreed another inspection would be performed by 4 p.m. the next day if the City could acquire the proper equipment to verify the readings,” he wrote. “Regrettably, the City cancelled the re-inspection due to an equipment malfunction.”
City officials did not return San Clemente Times’ request for comment as of this posting.
Train conductors passing through San Clemente began to sound their horns again this past November, when the FRA denied the city’s initial request to continue using the Pedestrian Audible Warning Systems, or PAWS, at seven crossings in San Clemente.
Without the waiver granting the use of the PAWS, which was approved back in 2015 to establish the quiet zones, trains are required, per federal regulations, to sound the locomotive horns four times ahead of each crossing.
During initial inspections of the PAWS last spring and summer, the FRA found a handful of compliance issues such as warning systems not operating as intended, and poor conditions of signage, emergency exit swing gates and the fencing to keep pedestrians away from the tracks.
Following the denial, the city worked with local stakeholders including Metrolink to quickly remedy the issue as the FRA agreed to conduct the expedited inspection last month. The planned inspection placed the city in a position to have the FRA Safety Board reconsider the waiver renewal during its quarterly meeting on Tuesday, Jan. 12.
“However, consideration of the City of San Clemente’s petition waiver renewal is not on the agenda,” Flatau said in the email. “FRA remains fully committed to working with and assisting the City in achieving full compliance with the waiver request requirements.”
Flatau further stated: “Preparations are underway to re-inspect in the very near future.”
Flatau on Monday couldn’t provide an official date of the next meeting, other than to note that the safety officials meet quarterly, indicating that it’s likely a few months before the city’s waiver can be considered.
Shawn Raymundo is the city editor for the San Clemente Times. He graduated from Arizona State University with a bachelor’s degree in Global Studies. Before joining Picket Fence Media, he worked as the government accountability reporter for the Pacific Daily News in the U.S. territory of Guam. Follow him on Twitter @ShawnzyTsunami and follow San Clemente Times @SCTimesNews.