Council puts railroad quiet zones on backburner

Aug. 3, 2010 at 3:03 a.m.

The Victoria City Council reviewed a report on developing railroad quiet zones on Tuesday, but took no action.

The report from the city's Development Services Department was an update on two previous memorandums the council heard in 2006.

Calling the quiet zones a "quality of life" issue, Councilman David Hagan said, according to his math, Victoria could hear as many as 670 horn sounds a day.

"With that many sounds a day, you can certainly understand why it would be a concern for many of our citizens," Hagan said. "I'm not suggesting we run out and spend a lot of money we don't have, but I did want the issue on the radar screen."

According to the department's report, establishing city-wide quiet zones would cost Victoria nearly $9.9 million.

That estimate factors in the more costly option of installing two gates on each side of crossings to prohibit motorists from driving around the barriers.

Quiet zones must be at least half a mile in length and must include some sort of physical barrier to prevent drivers from bypassing the crossing arms.

A cheaper barrier option would be to install medians before the crossings or to eliminate some low-traffic crossings altogether, John Kaminski, director of Development Services, said.

But medians are required to stretch 100 feet, a restriction that might not be feasible for crossings near major intersections or businesses, Kaminski added.

With the city's Capital Improvement Program's project list already full, the council agreed to put the issue of quiet zones on the back burner.

Kaminski said his staff would also want to perform a cost-benefit analysis of the quiet zones before the council made a decision.

"I'd like to see us pursue this particularly when it's cost-effective," Hagan said after the meeting. "Not so much now, but in the future, when the time is appropriate."

Mayor Will Armstrong said the city is also waiting to receive a Memorandum of Understanding from the lawyers with Kansas City Southern Railway, which would be the first step in finding a way for trains to bypass the city.

That would most likely require the city to purchase land and build new tracks and crossings, Victoria's director of communications, O.C. Garza said.

"If anything comes to fruition, it would be years," Garza said of the potential bypass. "But we're hopeful, and it's a positive sign the railroad company is doing what it can to improve citizens' quality of life."



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