Railroad crossing construction begins to allow for quiet zones

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Quiet zones will be established for trains in San Marcos after safety upgrades to railroad crossings.

Some residents will soon get the quiet zones they have been asking for once safety upgrades to 26 city railroad crossings are complete.

The Engineering and Capital Improvements Department will facilitate construction of medians at railroad crossings to prevent drivers from bypassing the caution arms once they are lowered, said Project Manager Janae Ryan. After the barriers are installed, Union Pacific will implement quad gates that block the road leading up to the tracks at railroad crossings on Patton Street. The project will cost the city $1.1 million.

Road lanes near railroad crossings are currently being restriped in preparation for the medians, which are estimated to be complete by the end of March, Ryan said.

Quiet zones can be established after safety measures are completed as part of a Federal Railroad Association regulation, Ryan said. The city will post “no train horn” signs at the crossings and will file for the quiet zones with the FRA.

The city has estimated the project will be complete by the end of this year, Ryan said.

The quiet zones will attempt to minimize noise by prohibiting trains from routinely sounding their horns when approaching railroad crossings within the city, according to FRA’s website. Horns may be blown when something is on the tracks, an emergency arises or in an attempt to comply with federal regulations.

“We’ve already met with (FRA) and (Union Pacific) on every crossing to make sure exactly what is necessary is being put in,” Ryan said. “After all the safety improvements are installed, there’s a lull period which is about a month where they can still sound their horns just so people can kind of get used to it, and then it will go quiet.”

San Marcos residents have long rallied behind railroad quiet zones and reported complaints of late night train horns, according to a March 8, 2012 University Star article.  

Senior Christopher Barrera lives at Bobcat Village and said the train that passes by his complex at 8:30 a.m. is “good alarm clock,” but he is also woken up by the sound of trains around 1:30 a.m.

Barrera said he thinks the quiet zones are a good idea but will be hard to enforce.

“I think (quiet zones) would make a big difference, but it’s about regulating as well,” Barrera said. “There aren’t many regulators that can stop what a conductor does. If he sees something on the line, he’s going to blow the horn.”

Finance senior Jordan Becker, who lives at Copper Beech Townhomes, said his bedroom is 20 to 30 feet from the railroad tracks. Becker said he has become used to the noise.

“To be honest, I thought the city already had the quiet rules,” Becker said. “I believe this can be a good thing, as long as they can still blow the horn for emergencies like animals or people on the track.”