Turning dirt on an awaited project that will muzzle blaring horns as freight trains pass through San Marcos, a contractor has begun building raised medians where Posey Road crosses over a pair of Union Pacific railroad tracks.
The Federal Railroad Administration requires train engineers to sound a series of warning signals — two long blasts followed by one short blast followed by another long, repeated “as necessary” — at every street that crosses tracks at ground level. With nearly 70 at-grade crossings within the city limits, the daily — and nightly — processional of trains results in a periodic ear-splitting serenade of up to 110 decibels.
The “quiet zone” project will replace the warning horns with dinging bells, flashing lights and either gates that span the width of a street or raised medians that prevent drivers from attempting to zip around closed crossing arms.
The $1.1 million project encompasses 26 railroad crossings spread along about 9¾ miles of track. The quiet zone has been on the city’s capital improvements checklist since 2006.
Wimberley-based Myers Concrete Construction has started work on the Posey Road median, to be followed by the addition of medians at Centerpoint Road, McCarty Lane, Hopkins Street at the San Marcos River and Charles Austin Drive. The streets are expected to remain open during construction, said Melissa Millecam, the city’s spokesperson.
After the medians are constructed, Union Pacific will install “quad gates” at the Patton Street crossings, the last step before the city can put up “No Train Horn” signs and the quiet zone will, theoretically at least, go into effect.
City engineers expect construction of eight sets of medians to be completed within four months but have not ventured to guess when Union Pacific will complete the Patton Street work. Still, City Hall officials say the quiet zone is expected to be a sweetly silent reality before the end of the year.