City to consider railroad quiet zones again

Melissa Crowe By Melissa Crowe

March 18, 2012 at 11 p.m.
Updated March 17, 2012 at 10:18 p.m.

A Houston-based apartment developer is urging the Victoria City Council to consider a railroad quiet zone nearby a new 244-unit complex at the Ben Wilson Street crossing.

Assistant City Manager John Kaminski, the former development services director, will update the council Tuesday with a report he gave during the Jan. 17 meeting regarding the proposed quiet zone at The Remington Apartments in the 2400 block of Ben Wilson Street.

The issue was also brought up in August 2010.

The quiet zone would call for constructing a raised, concrete median extending 100 feet from the four-quadrant crossing gates, which would also be installed, in both directions.

Trains are required by federal law to sound their horns as they approach road crossings. However, a law passed in 2005 gave cities the ability to establish quiet zones.

The development is in Councilman Gabriel Soliz' district.

Soliz said a quiet zone would be "an immediate, short-term solution" and a positive to Victorians in that area.

He said he has heard countless complaints from his district about the train sounding its horn between midnight and sunrise. He said it hinders people's ability to enjoy their property.

"If we can put together a good plan between the city and the Kansas City Southern, hopefully everybody will get a good night's sleep, no property will be damaged and no one will complain at city hall, 'Shut those horns off!'" Soliz said.

While he supports the proposed project, the city needs to look long-term at the railroad, he said.

"With the continued growth of the city and the Kansas City Southern, there needs to be consideration of an alternative route," Soliz said.

During the January meeting, Mayor Will Armstrong said he was concerned that a median would block access and hurt dormitory plans for University of Houston-Victoria.

Kaminski said his update includes revised cost estimates and confirmation that a median "would not impact the university's plans."

In previous reports on quiet zones, planning staff used four-quadrant gates at all quiet zone crossings. While this type of measure, which calls for two gates on each side of the rail line, is significantly more expensive than medians, medians are not an option at all crossings, according to Kaminski's report. If the crossing is within 100 feet of another street intersection or if there are driveways within 100 feet of the crossing, medians would obstruct access to existing businesses or residences.

In a letter to the city, the apartment developer, Arthur Donnelly, said he is willing to manage the construction and pay up to $15,000 to install the median.

Since the January review, Armstrong said he thinks the project will move forward.

"I didn't want (UHV's) property to be decreased in value ...," Armstrong said. "We still have some more details to work out. My only reservation was whether or not we would hurt the University of Houston's entrance and exits to some property they were looking at buying."

In Donnelly's letter to the council, he said, the apartment's future residents, as well as UHV dormitory residents, hotel/motel guests in the area and patients at Citizens Medical Center "will greatly benefit from the establishment of a quiet zone at the Ben Wilson crossing."

Donnelly did not return phone calls seeking comment.

Armstrong said for this particular location quiet zones are "very practical."

Whether other quiet zones would be practical and to what expense, he would not answer.



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