San José, Costa Rica, since 1956

High Court Orders Train to Keep it Down

The Constitutional Chamber of the Supreme Court (Sala IV) ordered railroad authorities to make sure babies can sleep peacefully – that is, to regulate the sound of the San José train whistle in response to a lawsuit filed by parents whose 9-month-old girl couldn’t sleep because of the noise.

According to the daily La Nación, Sala IV justices agreed to study the suit, filed by a couple in Sabana Sur in western San José, but also emitted an immediate order to the Costa Rican Railroad Institute (INCOFER) and Public Health Ministry to adjust the whistle’s noise to fit established noise-pollution limits. The couple, Alejandra Castro and Pedro Chaves, live 20 meters from the train tracks; the train passes by their home 10 times a day from 5 a.m.-5 p.m.

The Railroad Institute maintains the load horn is necessary to warn drivers of the approach of the train, which runs from the eastern suburb of San Pedro to the western suburb of Pavas, and prevent accidents.

However, La Nación reported that the horn, which, at its loudest, reaches 120 decibels, is more than double the amount of noise permitted by the Health Ministry’s regulations (65 decibels between 6 a.m. and 6 p.m., and 45 decibels overnight).

This regulation was created with industrial noise in mind and does not take into account train noise, according to the daily.

The San José diesel train, which was inactive from 1995-2005, reinitiated its crosscity route late last year (TT, Oct. 14, 2005).

INCOFER head Miguel Carabaguíaz told the daily measures to eliminate the noise would include lights and barriers where the tracks intersect with streets, but such measures are costly.


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