Policies and Statements


train horn at crossing

In September of 1998 the city of Ames, Iowa, began operation of three automated horn warning systems. These systems were installed after nearby residents repeatedly expressed concerns over the disturbance created by the loud train horns.

Traditionally, locomotive engineers begin sounding the train horn approximately 1/4 mile from the crossing to warn motorists and pedestrians approaching the intersection. To be heard over this distance, the train horn must be very loud. This combination of loud horns, and the length along the tracks that the horn is sounded, creates a large area adversely impacted by the horn noise.

The automated horn system provides a similar audible warning to motorists and pedestrians by using two stationary horns mounted at the crossing. Each horn directs its sound toward the approaching roadway. The horn system is activated using the same track signal circuitry as the gate arms and bells located at the crossing.

A research project has been done to determine the effectiveness and acceptance of the automated horn warning system.

For further information, or for a printed copy of the report, contact:

Steve J. Gent, P.E.
Research coordinator
Director, Office of Traffic and Safety
Iowa Department of Transportation
800 Lincoln Way
Ames, Iowa 50010