By Caitlin Clark, Texas A&M University Division of Marketing & Communications
Published May 14, 2020
The Texas A&M University System Board of Regents gave unanimous approval during its regular meeting Thursday to appropriate $4.5 million for construction of the railroad quiet zone project adjacent to the flagship campus in College Station.
The regents had previously agreed in February to add the quiet zone project to the Texas A&M University System Capital Plan and appropriated $500,000 for pre-construction services. The $5 million project will silence train horns along 1.7 miles of the Union Pacific Railroad corridor near the Texas A&M University campus.
In order to silence train horns within the proposed quiet zone at F&B Road, Old Main Drive, John Kimbrough Boulevard and George Bush Drive, several trackside safety improvements will need to be made at the four at-grade crossings.
Construction is anticipated to begin in June, with substantial completion anticipated in August 2021.
Establishing the quiet zone is critical to public safety, academic excellence and quality of life at Texas A&M University. The sound of train horns is adversely affecting educational and research activities on campus, according to Texas A&M University System officials, as well as the work environment of staff providing support operations to campus.
Train engineers are required by law to sound a train’s horn within 100 feet of any intersection. But within quiet zones, they do not sound the horns when approaching public highway-rail grade crossings. To mitigate the safety concerns that come with the absence of a horn, new safety measures within the proposed quiet zone will be required by the Federal Railroad Administration, which administers the quiet zone process.
The improvements will include channelizing vehicle and pedestrian travel paths, adding median gates and installing a wayside horn – a loudspeaker system with a smaller sound footprint that points directly at approaching vehicles – at some crossings.
There are also plans to enhance pedestrian safety and eliminate rail crossings at Wellborn Road, which will require adjustments to the underground passageway and adjacent property. This will allow for more access and eliminate at-grade pedestrian crossings along John Kimbrough Boulevard.
Along with the cities of Bryan and College Station and Brazos County, university officials have been pursuing the establishment of a quiet zone in order to address noise and quality of life concerns along the Union Pacific Railroad corridor. An average of 24 trains pass through the area along the Navasota Division of the UPRR each day. This number is expected to nearly double within the next five years.
Several large buildings and residence halls are located near the railroad, and some new buildings under construction or in design will also be in close proximity to the corridor. This includes the Doug Pitcock ’49 Texas A&M Hotel and Conference Center, the Cain parking garage and the 21st Century Classroom building across Wellborn Road from the railroad tracks.
Thursday’s meeting of the regents was conducted virtually via video teleconference due to the COVID-19 pandemic.
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