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Train noise is important safety factor, warning

Dec. 19, 2012 at 6:19 a.m.


Editor, the Advocate:

I'm sticking my neck out here, but reading about the train crossing controversy gives me chills. Running the Transportation Department at Alcoa for 30-plus years, and dealing directly with two train crews, I heard all kinds of horror stories about the stupidity of people. I suggest that perhaps 99 percent of train-related accidents and fatalities are human error from the pedestrian/car/bus driver, and 1 percent due to failure of crossing gates, warming lights and train engineer error.

Two questions: Were the railroads here before the residential areas were developed or did they build their tracks deliberately through established private housing developments? Why are additional heavy railroad crossing areas being developed for housing/apartments/motels, etc (i.e., The Remington)? Why not use those spaces for convenience stores/fast food places/malls, etc where noise is not a concern?

Don't those complaining about the noise know it is a safety issue and not a deliberate attempt on the part of an over-zealous train engineer to disrupt sleep, phone conversations, etc?

Every time I am in Victoria, I see cars speeding up to beat the crossing gates coming down, or driving around them if forced to wait a few seconds before the train actually enters the crossing. Or kids running across the tracks or swerving bicycles around the gates barely ahead of slow-moving trains.

Do these people realize how much weight a 100-car train is pulling? Do the math. Each railroad car weighs approximately 131 tons when loaded. What does an auto weigh? 2-3 tons? And how quickly can you stop if someone darts/pulls out in front of you? Perhaps 25-100 feet if travelling 10-30 mph and your reaction time is instantaneous. So multiply 100 cars (plus 3-4 locomotives) travelling 12-15 mph (they try to clear crossings as quickly as possible) and it is readily apparent why the train engineers give long and ample warnings when approaching a crossing.

While it may be annoying, remember you chose to buy or build near a crossing.

Joyce D. Schaefer, Port Lavaca

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