Sherman Street Highway-Rail Grade Crossing Upgrades

On approximately June 29th, 2018, the MBTA Commuter Rail (which is operated by Keolis Commuter Services) started sounding the train horns at the Sherman Street crossing in North Cambridge. We recognize that the noise from the horns is disturbing residents at all hours of the day, and are therefore moving as quickly as possible to install a solution that will allow the MBTA/Keolis to stop sounding the train horns. At the same time, we recognize the safety hazards created by grade crossings that do not meet the current standards for a Quiet Zone, and therefore want to ensure that we install the proper safety measures to resolve this situation.

This web page is a central repository for information about this grade crossing and the City’s efforts to work with the MBTA and the Federal Railroad Administration (FRA) to improve the grade crossing to establish an official Quiet Zone at this location.

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December 30, 2019 -- The City of Cambridge has received approval from the Federal Railroad Administration (FRA) to modify the medians at the Sherman Street Grade Crossing. The median lengths will be shortened on both sides of the crossing in order to improve access to the properties located adjacent to the crossing. We plan to complete the construction required to shorten the medians as soon as weather allows this spring.

January 29 – Noise Update: Over the past month, we received multiple complaints about the sounding of horns in the area around the Sherman Street grade crossing. The MBTA confirmed that the horns were sounding due to the presence of work equipment near the tracks and was not related to any change in the status of the Sherman Street Quiet Zone. The project requiring the equipment was recently completed, and the MBTA’s has cleared the track area.

September 7 - View September 7 email update to the community

August 31 - View August 31 email update to the community

August 31 - Quiet Zone Construction Project Roadway Construction Notice

August 24 - View August 24 email update to the community

August 24 - Notice of Establishment (NOE) and Quiet Zone Designation Information

August 24 - MassDOT comment letter 

August 20 - Pan Am Railways response to Sherman St. Quiet Zone (PDF)

August 17 - View August 17 email update to the community

August 17 - MBTA response to Sherman St. Quiet Zone (PDF)

August 17 - Keolis response to Sherman St. Quiet Zone (PDF)

August 10 - View August 10 email update to community

August 3 - View August 3 email update to community

July 31 - DPU response to Sherman St. Quiet Zone (PDF)

July 30 - Joint Letter to Secretary Pollack and General Manager Ramirez from MA State Delegation

July 27 - View July 24th meeting recap email

July 27 - City sends letter to Secretary Pollack requesting that train operators minimize the loudness and duration of the horns to the extent possible.

July 26 - City submits letter to Department of Public Utilities (DPU) regarding Notice of Intent to establish Quiet Zone.

  • When the City submitted the original Notice of Intent, we sent it to the Massachusetts Department of Transportation (MassDOT), as the agency responsible for highway-rail grade crossing safety. Subsequently, MassDOT indicated that the Department of Public Utilities (DPU) is actually responsible for this oversight activity. On July 26, we sent the NOI to DPU and are working to obtain a response as soon as possible, so that this does not extend the timeline for implementing quiet zone improvements.

July 26 - City releases RFP to Furnish and Install of Roadway Surface Improvements for Railroad Crossing

July 24 - Letter sent to Secretary Pollack and MBTA General Manager Ramirez (view PDF of Letter)

July 24 - Community Meeting on Sherman Street Railroad Crossing 

July 16 - City formally Initiating the process of establishing a Quiet Zone by sending a Notice of Intent (NOI) letter

July 10Sherman Street Railroad Crossing Community Update

A Public Meeting will be held on Tuesday, July 24 at the Peabody School Auditorium from 6:30 -8:00 PM.

  • In 2005, the FRA passed a new train horn regulation to increase safety at grade crossings. This rule significantly tightened the procedures for maintaining or creating a quiet zone at a railroad grade crossing. 
  • Prior to this time, the Sherman Street grade crossing had been a no-horn location, but the new train horn rule removed that designation and would have required train horns to be sounded. At the time, the City was granted a one year extension to the no-horn location, through the summer of 2006.
  • From that point, no further action was taken by the City, the MBTA, or the FRA and the crossing continued to operate without train horns past the original summer 2006 extension because the issue was not raised and no change in operating practices took place.
  • This operating practice of not sounding the train horns continued until very recently. The current change occurred due to an audit conducted by Keolis, which determined that there is no quiet zone designation for this location, leading to the necessary decision to start sounding the horns again, since there are significant penalties associated with violating the train horn rule.
More information about the FRA’s train horn rule and Quiet Zones is available here: https://www.fra.dot.gov/Page/P0889


Please contact Brooke McKenna if you need additional information or have questions -  BMcKenna@CambridgeMA.Gov or 617-349- 4723

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Page was posted on 7/16/2018 6:43 PM
Page was last modified on 3/15/2020 12:50 PM
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