Texas A&M System Regents Approve Quiet Zone Project

Silencing train horns adjacent to the College Station campus will improve quality of life for the campus community adjacent to the railroad corridor.

Texas A&M Today

By Caitlin Clark, Texas A&M University Division of Marketing & Communications

Published February 6, 2020

demonstration of a wayside horn

Aerial view of the campus of Texas A&M University.
Texas A&M Marketing & Communications

The Texas A&M University System Board of Regents gave approval during its regular meeting Thursday to move forward with pursuing a railroad quiet zone adjacent to the flagship campus in College Station.

The regents unanimously agreed to add the $5 million quiet zone project to the Texas A&M University System Capital Plan. They also appropriated $500,000 for pre-construction services for the project, which will begin this fiscal year.

A quiet zone will silence train horns along 1.7 miles of the Union Pacific Railroad corridor near the Texas A&M University campus. In the absence of a train horn, trackside safety improvements will need to be made at the four crossings within the proposed quiet zone at F&B Road, Old Main Drive, John Kimbrough Boulevard and George Bush Drive.

“For some time, our faculty, staff, students and local residents have been asking for a way to reduce noise in that area,” said Texas A&M President Michael K. Young. “We’ve seen how advanced technologies can help us create a quiet zone and still make sure everyone remains safe. Thanks to the Board of Regents’ approval, this will be one of the many ways we continue to improve safety for every member of the university and local communities.”

University officials have been exploring establishing a quiet zone to address noise concerns in this area, and submitted a letter of intent late last year to the Federal Railroad Administration, which administers the quiet zone process. Associate Vice President for Transportation Services Peter Lange said work on the safety improvements will begin this summer, and could take up to a year to complete.

“The Regents are to be commended for improving the safety and quality of life for faculty, staff and students in Aggieland,” said Texas A&M University System Chancellor John Sharp.

With the regents’ approval, Transportation Services can now begin on the improvements, Lange said.

“I think from a quality of life perspective it should be a really big benefit to campus,” he said.

While train engineers are required by law to sound a train’s horn within 100 feet of any intersection, they do not sound the horns when approaching public highway-rail grade crossings within quiet zones.

A quiet zone will reduce the adverse effects that train horn sound has on educational and research activities on campus. Several academic buildings and residence halls are in close proximity to the railroad, including the forthcoming 21st Century Classroom building, which will be the largest classroom building on campus.

New safety measures at the four crossings within the proposed quiet zone, as required by the FRA, will include channelizing vehicle and pedestrian travel paths, adding median gates and other improvements. A wayside horn – a loudspeaker system that points directly at approaching vehicles with a smaller sound footprint – is planned to be installed at the George Bush Drive crossing.

Texas A&M Transportation Services also plans to improve pedestrian safety and eliminate rail crossings at Wellborn Road and John Kimbrough Boulevard, which will require adjustments to the underground passageway and adjacent property. Modifying the passageway will allow for more access and eliminate at-grade pedestrian crossings along John Kimbrough Boulevard.

An average of 24 trains pass through the area along the Navasota Subdivision of the UPRR each day – this number is expected to nearly double within the next five years.

Like Texas A&M, the cities of College Station and Bryan are also pursuing their own quiet zones. Elected officials, city staff and community stakeholders have been working since 2015 to silence train horns in Downtown Bryan, and the city of College Station is working to establish quiet zones at Greens Prairie Trail and Drake Drive along with Brazos County.

College Station Mayor Karl Mooney called Texas A&M’s efforts “timely and appropriate.”

“With the recently signed U.S.-Mexico trade agreement there will be more, yet longer trains to meet the growing demand for goods that the country requires. With increased trains comes a more frequent sounding of a locomotive horn,” Mooney said. “With the requirement of specified decibel levels to make railroad crossings safe, the horns can be disruptive to lectures, presentations and, in the case of the hotel, a sound sleep. For these reasons, I am supporting this initiative to establish a quiet zone.”

Bryan Mayor Andrew Nelson said Texas A&M’s efforts to implement a quiet zone along Wellborn Road will complement the city’s work toward a quiet zone in its developing Midtown area and Downtown Bryan.

“Together, both projects will provide a better quality of life for residents and businesses who are located near the railroad tracks,” Nelson said.

Read the full article