Rail Quiet Zone
by: Laurie Johnson, July 11, 2006 12:07:00 am
As of August 1st, residents in the Inner West Loop area will no longer hear this sound at all hours of the day.
Right now, between 34 and 37 trains travel these tracks every day. They pass through 14 intersections in residential areas and must sound their horns at each one. Bellaire Mayor Cindy Siegel says she lives near one of the railroad crossings and she knows how frustrating the noise is for residents.
"I live a half a block from 610 Loop and five and a half blocks from the actual railroad and about 5:30 this morning before my alarm went off, I heard the train as it blared and tooted its horn all the way through Bellaire and I thought 'thank the Lord, pretty soon I'm not going to have to listen to that train.'"
The process to designate a rail quiet zone requires the city to implement safety precautions at each crossing. City of Houston Public Works Director Michael Marcotte says they had to find ways to prevent drivers and pedestrians from crossing the tracks.
"In most cases, the gates close just on the one direction of traffic and one way. Some of us have hopefully never done this, but we've seen it done, is people can go around the gates and go the other side. So the dividers that we've put in, we've put in additional curbing, put in additional signage in order to discourage that very unsafe behavior."
The city has been working to get the quiet zone implemented for the past few years. Houston Mayor Bill White says the proposal had already been drafted when he took office, but was held up because the city thought the project would be too expensive.
"I had been told when I first got into office that it would cost -- that we would need about a $300,000 study and it could cost $200,000 per intersection and that number is what was floating around Washington, by the way. And this project for 14 intersections -- I said that was ridiculous, I mean you can stop people from crossing an intersection for a lot less money than that."
The safety upgrades on all 14 intersections cost a total of $300,000 shared between the Cities of Houston, Bellaire and West University Place. Laurie Johnson Houston Public Radio News.