Although trains may be a disturbance to many residents across San Marcos, spending $514,000 on the first phase of a project to silence the horns is money that could be better spent elsewhere in the city.
Safety measures, including quad gates at intersections to block the road entirely on either side, road medians on both sides of the tracks and “no train horn” signs at each railroad crossing will be expensive. The process is also expected to be lengthy. According to an Oct. 11 University Star article, Phase I construction is estimated to take about six months, and there will be another six-month period of adjustment before the trains can be silenced.
When San Marcos residents rented apartments or bought homes near the train tracks, they made a conscious buyers’ choice knowing noise would likely be an issue in the area. Railroad crossings are abundant in San Marcos. It is hard for residents to be unaware of the impact that trains have on the city.
With a six-month construction period for the project, residents’ frustrations will ultimately increase even more than with the current train horn situation. Solutions this lengthy, especially when dealing with city infrastructure, are sometimes not worth the end result.
According to the same article, Phase I will only account for 26 intersections. Even after a year has passed, some residents will still be left suffering through their war with horns at other railroad crossings in the city. According to a March 8 University Star article, funds for Phase II of the project covering the Post Road and Uhland Road crossings have not yet been set aside in the budget. Under the current plans, it could be months or years into the future before all the trains that roll through San Marcos are silenced.
The money allocated to be spent on the potentially long-term railroad quiet zone project should be invested into different and possibly less time-consuming projects to improve other parts of San Marcos. For example, old and overused roads must be fixed. Especially in the downtown area, more sidewalks and bike lanes should be added, and existing cycling lanes need to be renovated.
Those improvements could greatly benefit the overall structure of the city. Instead of waiting a year for the trains to be silenced, completing quicker much-needed projects throughout the city could ultimately be less costly and pose smaller inconveniences for residents.
It is commendable that the city is making an effort to improve the quality of life among all of its residents. However, there are not enough reasons to spend half a million dollars on Phase I of a project that will take a year for intended effects to be observed and will only address a portion of the problem.