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

February 19th, 2014
With construction underway, ‘quiet zone’ could soon silence train horns


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.

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8 thoughts on “With construction underway, ‘quiet zone’ could soon silence train horns

  1. It was my understanding that the intersection of the train tracks at Kohler’s Crossing in Kyle is supposed to be a quiet zone, but often I hear the trains blow their loud horns there.

  2. The “medians” have been installed at Centerpoint, Posey, and McCarty. Turns out they are nothing more than curbs that measure around 6″ tall by 10″ wide or so. Oh, and they were (kind of) painted yellow. The paint is sloppy and doesn’t even cover the whole “median”…..

    So our $1.1 million is going toward a half dozen curbs and 52 street signs (26 crossings, one sign each direction) that will warn us that the trains won’t be blowing their horns anymore on that crossing.

    That’s a lot of money for a pretty basic project. I can’t help but wonder how much of the $1.1 million went to the railroad to bribe (errr….’apply for them’) to play along?

    At $300 per sign and $1,000 per curb (estimated prices that a private citizen could have obtained these items), the actual cost of construction – at least what I’ve seen so far – should be less than $25K.

  3. I thought the gates had to be upgraded, and horns added, which sound from the intersection, toward traffic.

    It’s been a long time, so I could be wrong.

  4. Weren’t the “dinging bells and flashing lights” always there?

    I’m pretty sure I remember they have to add horns at the intersection, to replace the horns on the trains.

  5. There were already “gates” (ie dinging bells and flashing lights) at every crossing in town except Patton St. I read in another article that the railroad was going to pay the cost of installing the gates at that intersection.

    So the question remains…..what the hell are we spending $1.1 million on here????

    Because it sure ain’t a few sloppy curbs and a bunch of warning signs. Brad – do you have any insight as to the reason for the cost of this project?

  6. Once upon a time, I thought I was told it was for upgraded gates, and horns facing the intersections. If it is not for that, then I am as puzzled as anyone.

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