by KIM HILSENBECK
A lonely train whistle announcing its approach in the distance is a familiar sound for Buda and Kyle residents. The horns cry out, two long, one short, one long, between 15 and 20 times each day — and night.
“Those trains blow the whistles every time; it’s pretty bothersome in Buda,” says Buda resident Jacob Gonzales.
Yet some residents in both communities say train whistles at all hours come with the territory, especially for those who buy a house near the crossing stops.
“It’s part of life by the railroad tracks,” said area resident Anthony Collier. “You get used to it.”
Chance Sparks, Buda’s planning director, said Buda considered such a whistle ban last summer. The city ultimately decided the cost and safety issues were not worth the added peace and quiet.
“I haven’t heard any complaints from residents about the trains since I started working for the city,” said Sparks, who joined the city in Dec. 2010.
Kyle has no plans to make changes to the crossing in the historic district, though Assistant City Manager James Earp said the city has made improvement to Kohler’s Crossing for silent crossing.
“We are also requiring a silent crossing as part of the development near the Burleson rail crossing,” Earp said.
With neighboring San Marcos planning to update its rail crossings to create quiet zones this summer, it opened the door to another round of consideration in Kyle and Buda. But at a cost of more than a half million dollars, San Marcos may be the only one of the three towns along the Interstate 35 corridor that can afford the silence.
The railroad owner, Union Pacific, believes quiet zones may compromise the safety of railroad employees, customers and the general public. While the railroad does not endorse quiet zones, it does comply with provisions outlined in federal law.
For those who think the whistles are too loud or disruptive, another option is to install wayside horns – these are mounted on a pole and the sound is directed at motorists and pedestrians on the street. A confirmation signal notifies the engineer the horn is sounding.
The wayside horns are not as loud and do not carry as far as the train’s whistle. But the cost can be high. Kyle and Buda are not currently considering wayside horns.
Earp said in an email, “I think the trains have been a way of life since the founding of this city, so residents have just come to accept that trains will blow their horns at 3 a.m.”
For some, it provides comfort.
“I like the sound of the train horns,” said Carol Fitzgerald.
Many others who spoke about the train whistles on the Hays Free Press Facebook page this week also think the whistles save lives.
“I’ve been listening to train horns in Buda for six years now; it’s no biggie for me. Would you rather hear horns or someone get hit?” says Buda resident William Talbot.
Katrina Harris of Buda added, “I live two blocks from the tracks and say “no” to quiet zones! It would take away the small town feel … plus it saves lives.”
KIM HILSENBECK reports for the Hays Free Press where this story was originally published. It is reprinted here through a news partnership between the Free Press and the San Marcos Mercury.Email | Print