Kyle sounds off about downtown train horns

Call it iconic or annoying, the sound of train horns blaring through Kyle could be history after city officials earmarked $100,000 for construction of a “quiet zone” that encompasses the downtown sector.

The move calls for the installation of quiet railroad crossings at Roland Lane, Opal Lane, West South Street and West Center Street.

The four crossings will create a zone where trains are prohibited from blaring their horn in warning on the railroad track running parallel to I-35. Safety and noise were the two biggest areas of concern for adding the zone, Sellers said.

“We’ve analyzed telemetry and signalization at each of the crossings that would be placed into a quiet zone,” Kyle City Manager Scott Sellers said.

He added that developers paid for quiet zones at the north Burleson, FM 1626 and Kohler’s Crossing railroad crossings. Sellers said the city now has funding to finish out “all crossings in the city.” 

City officials have conducted preliminary engineering and met with Federal Railroad Administration and Union Pacific Railroad Company representatives.

“Typically the process for establishing a quiet zone involves a variety of things to ensure the crossing is safe enough,” Sellers said. “It could be the addition of a side horn, it could be full gates over both lanes, or it could be a raised median that separates the two lanes of traffic so drivers don’t cross around the gate.”

To ensure a safe railroad crossing, the city will construct a median on both sides of the track for the west South Street and west Center Street crossings.

However, Sellers said additional engineering is needed for the Roland Lane and Opal Lane crossings, such as constructing a median and relocating the existing gate.

The city allocated $100,000, or $25,000 for each crossing, in an agreement with Union Pacific for additional engineering and changes the company deems necessary.

Sellers said the city would likely receive most of the funding back as the city engineering is good.

“We’ve done the engineering pretty well on west South Street and west Center Street,” Sellers said. “We’ve pretty much done it on Roland and Opal but we understand that there’s going to be additional requirements, additional engineering.”

While the city will fund the quiet railroad crossings on South and Center Streets, Sellers said a residential developer will help fund improving the Roland Lane and Opal Lane crossings.

Sellers said city officials are not sure when the quiet zone will be implemented. Construction of the quiet zone will be budgeted into next year’s budget, he said.

City officials have contemplated installing quiet zones for years, Sellers said. The city budgeted for the study of these quiet zones last year. However, Sellers didn’t provide a detailed explanation on why the city sought out the zones.

There is discussion about the safety of quiet railroad zones and whether accidents are more likely to occur.

Union Pacific states on its website it believes quiet zones compromise the safety of railroad employees, customers and the general public.

Federal Railroad Administration studies have found no statistical increase in accidents in quiet railroad zones.

“The quiet zone will make the crossings much safer since it will prevent vehicles from driving around the gates,” Sellers said.

The Federal Railroad Administration estimates 20 trains pass through Kyle per day, but Sellers said city officials believe the number is much higher.

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