San Marcos Mercury | Local News from San Marcos and Hays County, Texas

STAFF REPORT

The city is holding a meeting on proposed safety upgrades to the Patton Street railroad crossing that need to be completely before a citywide train horn quiet zone can move forward.

If you go …

What: Meeting on Patton Street railroad crossing

Who: City of San Marcos Engineer and Capital Improvement departments

When: 6 p.m. Wednesday, Oct. 10

Where: Georgia Street Senior Center, 810 Arizona Street


View Victory Gardens railroad crossing in a larger map

The Capital Improvements department is in the midst of a $514,000 project to make changes to 26 at-grade crossings required by Union Pacific Railroad before it will observe a citywide “quiet zone.” In a quiet zone, street traffic is warned about approaching trains by speakers at the crossing instead of ear-splitting horns blasted from locomotives passing through town.

At the Victory Gardens crossing, UP had suggested that the city close a segment of Eisenhower Street to prevent it form intersecting Patton so close the crossing. Instead, the city council opted for a more expensive “quad-gate” system that will use arms to block the entire street width when the crossing warning is activated by an oncoming train.

City staff and consultants from Austin-based Kimley-Horn and Associates are hosting a public meeting on the Patton Street crossing next week to brief Victory Gardens residents on the project.

When it is completed, the quiet zone project will remove the ubiquitous train whistle from the soundtrack of daily life in San Marcos. An average of 24 trains pass through the city on any given day, City Engineer Linda Huff has said. Those daily trips tend to increase in tandem with the economy as freight traffic picks up.

For information, contact the San Marcos Engineer and Capital Improvements department at 512-393-8130 or by email here.

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13 thoughts on “City schedules update on railroad quiet zone

  1. This is a hoax by the railroads and their government bedpartners to clear the way for crewless trains making the RRs a fortune in equipment and maintenance cost shifts.

    http://www.house.gov/transportation/rail/07-21-05/pickett.pdf Head of railroad signal union to congress
    …The only modification required is the installation of two additionalgate mechanisms and a timing device that would allow vehicles to exit the crossing before lowering the gates across the traffic exit lanes….

    http://ecfr.gpoaccess.gov/cgi/t/text/text-idx?c=ecfr&rgn=div5&view=text&node=23:1.0.1.7.27&idno=23#23:1.0.1.7.27.2.1.6
    (3) The State and FHWA shall be afforded a reasonable opportunity to inspect materials recovered by the railroad prior to disposal by sale or scrap. This requirement will be satisfied by the railroad giving written notice, or oral notice with prompt written confirmation, to the State of the time and place where the materials will be available for inspection. The giving of notice is the responsibility of the railroad, and it may be held accountable for full value of materials disposed of without notice.

  2. It’s all spelled out in Agenda 21. You don’t have to take my word for it – it’s all right there on the web site. Who cares. Just get it done because I’m sick of these loud friggin’ trains. I have to wonder why they’re having another darn meeting. Just add in the gates and get on with it.

  3. What’s an eye-splitting horn? Do you mean ear-splitting? I love the train noise, and I think we get used to it. I live on San Antonio, though, so perhaps it’s not right in my eye, errr ear!

  4. The train horns erode property values and diminish quality of life for those within reasonable ear shot. That includes W. San Antonio St., where we live. In fact, we had a guest in from out of state this weekend, and at one point she asked, “Wow! How close are those train tracks?”

    I find that I hardly notice them anymore, but I know at least two potential relocation candidates who opted against San Marcos because of the train noise. Having loud train horns blaring all day and all night makes everyone, no matter their address, feel as if they live on Railroad Street. And trust me, the vast majority of potential homebuyers isn’t interested in living on Railroad Street.

    If San Marcos is ever to become the town most people want, then we need to attract career-level jobs. And part of that is making this town attractive to people who will buy homes and then live in them – not just to landlords and property managers. Silencing those train horns is an obvious and very do-able step along that path. It should have happened years ago.

    And for the record, I agree train horns have a romantic sound….from about 15 miles away. I look forward to hearing them before they enter town and after they leave it.

  5. Why is Union-Pacific “requiring” anything from the City of San Marcos? Why doesn’t Union-Pacific pay for the grade crossing improvements? In Authentic Adam Smith Capitalism, that would be called a “cost of doing busness” CDB.

    Why does San Marcos still have train tracks criss-crossing neighborhoods and streets everywhere and stopping traffic so often?

    Why does the City not tell Union-Pacific to build trestles or bridges or re-route their trains well outside of the city limits? Why could we not then transform the vacant tracks into hike and bike trails? The horn ban is merely a palliative;what is needed is for Union-Pacific to build briudges or trestles or re-route their tracks well outside of city limits.

    Why does Union-Pacific or ANY corporation make demands or “require” anything from the City of San Marcos? When ANY corporation makes a demand on the City of San Maros, why doesn’t the City of San Marcos learn from Nancy Reagan: “Just Say NO”.

  6. Uh, where do you think we got the expression “being railroaded”? For the most part, the railroad was here first.

  7. My understanding is that it takes a lot of sophisticated gamesmanship to get railroads to do what communities want. There are many right-of-way privileges that date back to the 1800s and that railroads have retained to this day.

    There are economic forces at work, as well. Railroads move a lot of our consumer goods and commodities like coal which, for better or worse, we rely on for electricity. They have pull…no pun intended.

    But to my earlier point, I’m not sure we in San Marcos have the game needed to face off with the railroad industry. Perhaps the city can call on Pike Powers, its new biz dev consultant, for a little guidance on this. He strikes me as someone who might know how to win over railroads, or at least he’d know someone who would.

  8. So, though it goes without saying, if you don’t know the balance of power between the RR and the city you’re not fit to be mayor. Though I don’t think that was ever REALLY the plan. How much is the filing fee and how else could you get that much exposure?

  9. UPRR has been the owner of the tracks and surrounding ROW since 1850. When we drive across their tracks we are using their property. The (FRA) Federal RR Administration also has jurisdiction over saftey and quiet zone details. Truly foolish statements from Mr. Prentice. No filing fees to run for office either.

  10. Watson, do you have a volume and page on that? Most of the RR rows in Hays County are easements, not fee simple ownership, so it’s not their land, they have a right to use it. Pony up please.

  11. I’m HIGHLY skeptical that UP is operating in easements. Everywhere I’ve ever dealt with UP they have owned their ROW, typically 100′. That said, a search on the Hays CAD web site only comes up with a few UP real property accounts so maybe it’s true. Or maybe they own it in a different name. It would be too bad since maybe UP is avoiding taxes.

  12. Had a clients years back looking at some properties on the south side of SM, east of I35 with the RR along the back. It was an easement. Can’t speak for all of SM, or Hays County, but the RR didn’t own that land.

    The tax issue is most interesting. The land has no value to the fee owner, because they derive no income from it, nor can they use it.

    As for Hays CAD, there are issues with their record keeping, but …

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