Blaring train horns have neighborhoods calling for more ‘quiet zones’

Rep. Mike Villarreal, D-San Antonio (Courtesy: Texas House of Representatives)
Rep. Mike Villarreal, D-San Antonio (Courtesy: Texas House of Representatives)

AUSTIN (KXAN) — Several area cities are trying to balance safety with loud train horns.

On Monday, the City of San Marcos began construction at 26 railroad crossings, turning them into ‘quiet zones.’ When they are done, drivers won’t be able to sneak through when the crossing arms are down and train engineers won’t need to blow their horns.

Greg Tran lives just west of downtown and loves walking with his son Ellis, but the train horns can keep both of them on edge sometimes.

“If you’re like around town lake when the train turns, that’s really bad,” he said.

But growing up in New York,  he’s used to noise. “Our windows was on a busy street in Manhattan,” he said, “so for 10 years we had a lot of noise going on.”

Down the street, Davis Demaris fights the horns with other sounds around the house.

“If I don’t want to hear that, or I don’t want to hear the dumpster, I don’t want to hear people getting home across the street in these apartments after the bars, I have a fan that I run,” he said. “It’s white noise.”

According to the city’s transportation department, quiet zones are expanding north and east of downtown. But construction on new zones could take awhile. By federal law, cities and railroad companies can only create the zones after improving crossing safety.

The Austin Transportation Department has been working with Union Pacific Railroad on the South Austin Quiet Zone Project. The construction is expected to be completed later this year, but any work must first be approved by the Federal Railroad Administration before the zone can be officially established. A time frame on when the approval will be granted could not be made.

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