Family victimized by train noise gets no relief in court

Living near one of the rail line’s grade crossings can be a nightmare.

The Instituto Costarricense de Ferrocarriles has declined to install crossing gates, and every few weeks a train demolished a motor vehicle.

To keep that from happening train engineers are instructed to blow the horn loudly before each crossing. Such was the case in Barrio Otoya where a hotel owner hired crossing guards so that his guests could sleep while the train slide by noiselessly.

The train lines are expanding rapidly, and a San Pedro man went to the Sala IV constitutional court seeking a reduction in the noise he said was harming his 6-month-old daughter.

The man told magistrates that the sounds of the train are damaging the hearing of the infants ears and that there are
periodic sounds of horns from 6 a.m. The older diesel engines make the most noise, which the man said registered 96 decibels in his living room. He said the newer Spanish trains are quieter. The level of 96 decibels is similar to a hard rock band playing in the next room.

The San José-Heredia train or the San José-Curridabat route may cross more than a dozen roadways from start to destination. Each crossing means 30 seconds on the horn and more if traffic is blocking the way.

The man brought his case to the Ministerio de Salud, which declined to do anything because the horns are devices to prevent accidents. So the man brought his case to the constitutional court and sought help in getting the noise rules enforced.

The court declined to do so. It agreed with the health ministry. However, the high court did order the public officials concerned to take any action they can to institute security alternatives for the grade crossing.

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