Quiet zone

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Denton Record-Chronicle
John D. Harden/DRC
Town officials in Argyle are exploring possibly implementing a silent rail crossing, or quiet zones, at railroad crossings, which would limit how often locomotive engineers can sound their horns when cutting through town limits. Quiet zones are federally regulated and are only permitted when that the lack of a train horn does not present a significant risk with respect to loss of life or serious personal injury. Officials said quiet zones could be used as a selling point to attract commercial developers along U.S. Highway 377.
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Argyle wants to muffle passing trains to help attract new businesses

ARGYLE — It’s difficult to ignore the blaring horns of locomotives that roll through the town of Argyle at various hours each day.

The railroad tracks run alongU.S. Highway 377, dividing the town into east and west, and homes and businesses sit just a few hundred feet from the tracks.

At times, it can be deafening.

Now city leaders are hoping to create a quiet zone to limit train crews from routinely sounding the horns at railroad crossings.

During a recent meeting, town officials instructed staff members to explore what it will take to implement a silent crossing or quiet zone, which would limit how often train operators could sound their horns if certain requirements are met.

“It’s a very active track,”Mayor Peggy Krueger said. “We have homes and businesses that we know would appreciate a quieter railroad.”

If the town decides to move forward with pursuing a quiet zone at crossings, they are hoping to use it as a selling point for business developers seeking to build in the area and along the U.S. 377 corridor. Town officials have targeted the corridor to lure commercial businesses to help grow the area.

Council members recently instructed Town Manager Charles West to research what it will take to implement a quiet rail crossing for the town, and West said he will present his findings to the council next month.

“Right now, no decisions have been made,” he said. “It’s just an item the town wanted to explore.”


Costly measures

In a silent crossing zone, if a train is traveling faster than 60 mph, engineers will not sound the horn until it is within a quarter of a mile of the crossing, even if the advance warning is less than 15 seconds.

And horns must be sounded in a standardized pattern of two long, one short and one long blast, according to the Federal Railroad Administration’s website.

To qualify as a quiet zone,however, an area must show that the lack of a train horn does not present a significant risk or that the significant risk has been compensated for by other means, according to the railroad administration.

That can be costly for cities. Railroads qualify for silent crossing zone designations if crossing safety improvements are implemented, such as crossing closures, one-way conversions, gates, medians and signs and pavement markings to prevent accidents.

Several cities across the state have implemented silent crossings, including Denton, Corinth, Lake Dallas, Hickory Creek, Lewisville and Prosper in Denton County.

But qualifying for the silent crossing can be costly if major improvements are needed, Krueger said.

A railroad administration spokesman said that the cost can vary depending on how much work needs to be completed. Some cities have spent as much as $30,000 on improvements while much larger cities have dished out more than $3 million.

The most notable accident to happen in Argyle recently occurred in early October when a train crashed into an 18-wheeler that was stalled on the tracks. No major injuries were reported,but workers replaced the railroad crossing arms at the intersection of Crawford Road and U.S. 377.

According to Federal Railroad Administration officials, the quiet zone process, from initiation to establishment, can take 12 to 24 months.


Ongoing discussions

Discussions about a silent crossing started among council members during a recent leadership and strategic planning meeting, in which town leaders discussed future plans for town development.

Many of the plans included exploring efforts to lure commercial developments, developing parks and expanding the necessary infrastructure.

Council members also discussed how they can better collaborate with town staff.

“It was a very productive meeting and all of the council members who’ve been through it before said it was the best one the town has ever had,” Krueger said.

“We all discovered that we were all on the same page.”

JOHN D. HARDEN can be reached at 940-566-6882 and via Twitter at @JDHarden.

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