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Quiet zone could cover railroad crossings

By Melissa Crowe
May 17, 2012 at 12:17 a.m.
Updated May 18, 2012 at 12:18 a.m.


Victoria residents living along the Kansas City-Southern railroad tracks may soon relish in the sound of silence.

About four miles of track along the Houston Highway - from John Stockbauer Drive to North Street - could be included in a plan for a railroad quiet zone that would cost the city a fraction of its original estimate.

Quiet zones have been a subject for years, but with the city's comprehensive outlook and the quiet zone's million dollar price tags, they were not considered a prudent focus.

"It's several million dollars to go across town, $9 million or $10 million to do it all," said Assistant City Manager John Kaminski. "This time, we're looking at portions and biting off what we can afford."

In January, an apartment developer offered to pay for a quiet zone at the Ben Wilson Street crossing.

Kaminski said as the city began looking at the track, running parallel to U.S. Highway 59, the plan became more feasible.

With his updated report at the Tuesday City Council meeting and new methods of calculating federal requirements, Kaminski said the quiet zone could stretch from Delmar Drive to North Street.

"We had already figured out what we could do at Ben Wilson, Delmar and Stockbauer," Kaminski said. "At Ben Jordan, we ... could not get that crossing to the standard without adding a four-quadrant gate."

Federal regulations for quiet zones are complex. But, put simply, the risk is calculated by traffic count, trains per day, accident data, number of lanes and supplemental safety measures - including gates and medians - must be below the national risk index, Kaminski said.

The only way Ben Jordan could meet the standard was with an estimated $400,000 four-quadrant crossing gate, Kaminski said. The City Council scrapped that idea.

As the staff started moving forward with the quiet zone, they realized they could average the risk index of all proposed crossings and keep them below the national index, Kaminski said.

That's where the four-mile extension comes in.

The city will plan to add a 100-foot median on each side of the crossings at Ben Wilson Street and Delmar Drive, which are estimated to cost about $110,000. John Stockbauer Drive has a continuous median scheduled and budgeted through the Capital Improvement Project fund.

Councilman Tom Halepaska said at Tuesday's City Council meeting that the price seems reasonable.

"This has always been one of our goals, to get some of that stuff quieted down."

"We have an opportunity to do it at a very low price," Halepaska said. "We've looked at it a number of times over the years and each time it came back with astronomical price tags. With this system, let's encourage him to go forward and let's see what this looks like."

Development Engineer John Johnston said 30 trains pass through Victoria each day, 21 during the day and nine at night.

"Victoria was here in 1824," Johnston said. "The trains didn't get to Victoria till 1879, 1880. They contributed to the growth of the community, but the city was here before the trains."

If the project continues, the four-mile stretch of quiet zone could be in place by the end of the year, he said.

"It's been a very welcomed proposal for us to pursue this," Johnston said. "We have, at different stages over the past 10 years, always hit road blocks on the cost of installing quiet zones."

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