It’s going to get a little quieter along part of the Capital MetroRail line beginning January 1. More importantly, safety will be enhanced as well. A new federally-approved quiet zone will take effect at these crossings: Block House Drive, New Hope Drive, RM 1431, Discovery Boulevard, Park Street and Brushy Creek Road.
Once the Federal Railroad Administration (FRA) approves a quiet zone, trains are no longer required to sound horns at those crossings. As part of Capital Metro’s commitment to safety and to reduce noise near neighborhoods, crews have been upgrading the safety technology at many crossings up and down the 32-mile line.
Many of the crossings now have (or soon will have) quad gates which prevent cars from driving around lowered gates, like this:
Upgraded safety systems like quad gates allow for the possibility of quiet zones. But simply adding quad gates doesn’t automatically initiate a quiet zone. It’s actually up to the local jurisdictions, not Capital Metro, to submit quiet zone applications to the FRA. After the initial application there is a 60-day comment period. Then the applicant files a letter of establishment followed by a 20-day notification period before the quiet zone is official. That process is now complete for those Cedar Park crossings listed above.
Quiet zones already are in effect at crossings in the City of Leander. In Austin, the City has submitted quiet zone paperwork for crossings from McNeil Drive to Gracy Farms Road, and from Hwy. 183 to Downtown.
Once a quiet zone takes effect, that doesn’t mean you won’t hear train horns. Train operators will still sound the horn in emergency situations such as when there’s a car or pedestrian on the tracks. Unfortunately, people make the dangerous and illegal mistake of walking on railroad tracks. MetroRail trains are lighter, quieter and faster than freight trains – another good reason to stay off the tracks.
This is just a small sample of some of the rules. The regulations are very thorough, all for one good reason: safety. The details are available on the FRA’s site.