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

  • The blaring horns of trains as they make their way across Victoria have been a subject of complaints for years.

    They wake people up in the dead of night and they interfere with business during the day.

    Federal regulation requires ...

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  • The blaring horns of trains as they make their way across Victoria have been a subject of complaints for years.

    They wake people up in the dead of night and they interfere with business during the day.

    Federal regulation requires locomotive horns be sounded for 15 to 20 seconds before entering all public crossings, but not more than one-quarter mile in advance.

    Communities wishing to establish quiet zones where trains are prohibited from blowing the whistle must equip crossings with adequate safety measures. The safety devices are designed to overcome the decrease in safety created by silencing the train horns.

    The additional safety measures must be constructed at the community's expense and meet federal specifications.

    So far the city of Victoria has not acted on requests to establish quiet zones.

Victoria attorney Norman Jones, like most people, enjoys getting a good night's sleep.

But that is not something that comes easily for him because of the frequent train horns piercing the quiet of the night. He said one thing Victoria needs to address is the quality of life and that includes the loud whistles.

"All you have to do is sit down and add up how many horn blows per intersection," he said. "One train coming through town is a little over a hundred."

Jones estimated at least five to eight trains come through Victoria each day. He said that's a lot of noise and he can envision it interfering with plans to increase tourism and draw more conventions to the city.

"How's it going to sound when you're sitting there in a convention center and you hear 100 horns?" Jones asked. "How's that going to get tourists into town?"

He said even Flatonia, which is on a major train route, has quiet zones and the safety devices were installed at the city's expense to keep traffic from going around the cross-arms. Jones said the improvements were relatively simple and inexpensive.

"You do not have to have four of these barriers that come down on all sides of the tracks," he said. "There's a way to do this and do it inexpensively."

Teri Wilks, who serves on the Flatonia City Council, said residents there were also told that it would be an expensive proposition, costing $250,000 per intersection. She said she researched the topic on the Internet and found a way to install safety devices at a total cost of $50,000 for all four crossings.

The safety devices consist of a median with flexible pylons to keep traffic from crossing into the oncoming lane of traffic and going around the existing cross-arms.

"This really has been a blessing," she said. "It truly has affected everybody in the community in a positive way.

Wilks said 24 to 28 trains come through the city a day and each time, life would come to a halt as the engineers blew their deafening whistles nearly continuously.

There have been no car-train collisions since the quiet zones were established two years ago and engineers can still blow the whistles in emergency situations, she said.

"We did have some reaction before we put it in from people thinking that it was not going to be worth the little bit of cost it was going to be," Wilks said. "Now that it's here, everybody that I know loves it."

Mark Garretson, co-owner of Earthworks nursery, said he would welcome the quiet. His house is about a mile from the tracks and the trains still wake him up, which is one reason he supports the quiet zones.

"I think we need them for sure," he said. "It's just so disturbing."

Engineers sometimes blow the horns continuously for a quarter mile, making it impossible to even carry on a conversation, he said. At times it's almost unbearable, he said.

Related story: CON: Cost of quiet zones prohibitive for now; railroad can still blow horns in zones