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Pro/Con: Some feel city should create quiet zones at crossings

By DAVID TEWES
Oct. 24, 2010 at 5:24 a.m.


Council Member Tom Halepaska said he's not opposed to the concept of quiet zones, but he doesn't think the cost would go over well with the taxpayers.

The city staff estimates it would cost $10 million to establish quiet zones throughout Victoria. That's money that can be used for major street repairs, improving drainage or making other improvements, he said.

"I think the majority of the public would say that those who build close to a railroad track should accept what they build next to," Halepaska said. "I feel for them in some respects, but I don't know why they think that just because they move next to a railroad track, the trains would be quiet."

It's almost as if the people didn't do a minimal amount of research before deciding to locate near a railroad, he said.

Halepaska would rather wait until the city has enough money to establish quiet zones throughout the city rather than taking a piecemeal approach, he said. Otherwise, those neighborhoods not first on the list would be upset and accuse the city of acting unfairly, he said.

"I like to keep things evenhanded and as fair as we can," he said. But Halepaska said that probably means it won't happen in the lifetime of many people alive today.

Mayor Pro Tem Paul Polasek doesn't oppose the concept but said he's been hearing complaints about train horns for years.

"It's pretty costly," he said. "That's diverting resources from other projects."

The cost could top $250,000 per crossing, yet the engineer still has the option of blowing the horn in the quiet zones, he said.

"I have suggested in the past that the city do one crossing per year," Polasek said. "But that wasn't very well received."

The Federal Railroad Administration required pattern for blowing the horn is two long, one short, and one long sounding horn, repeated as necessary until the locomotive clears the crossing. Locomotive engineers retain the authority to vary this pattern as necessary for crossings in close proximity and are allowed to sound the horn in emergency situations.

The Union Pacific website makes it clear the company opposes quiet zones for safety reasons. It believes the zones 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 the federal law," according to the web site. "Establishing quiet zones not only creates a public safety risk, but also is a potential cost burden to taxpayers."

Related story:PRO: Other cities have lessened the cost of railroad quiet zones

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