Bryan City Council wants Downtown quiet zone as quickly as possible

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BRYAN, Tex. (KBTX) - It could be years before a quiet zone is in place in Downtown Bryan. Tuesday, the Bryan City Council told city staff to pursue making downtown into a quiet zone "as quickly as possible."

The city has been researching this idea for years. Train track crossings would have to be modified before trains are allowed to travel through downtown without using their horns.

If you've ever been downtown, you know the train horns can be loud. Freight trains travel two sets of tracks here throughout the day. Many businesses welcome the idea.

"I think it would be fantastic," said Jeff Sparks. His new store, Rabbit Hole Antiques & Collectibles, opened about seven months ago next to the railroad tracks on East 28th Street.

"The trains come through quite regularly and they are very loud. I'd love to see a quiet zone."

Tuesday, the council got an update on the project and recent work completed. There are 25 crossings involved in this process.

"By federal rules, the train must sound its horn for all 'at grade' crossings. There is a big sound footprint associated with that, so communities have looked for a quality of life solution where the trains don’t sound the horn," said Gary Schatz, a Bryan Transportation Engineering Consultant.

"We know that when trains don’t sound their horn, the risk of an 'at grade' crash goes up by two-thirds. There's always a risk, so this really elevates it," said Schatz.

To create a quiet zone, there are certain safety improvements that need to be made. That includes closing some of the crossings. After getting push back from residents, the council doesn't support closing the Groesbeck Street crossing, which sees 8,000 cars a day.

"The citizens have spoken. They definitely want to keep Groesbeck open. It's the second largest crossing in the city of Bryan," said Bryan Council member Reuben Marin.

“Talking to the people in the community, business owners and just the consensus is that quiet zone is something we desperately need in that area," said Council member Buppy Simank.

Some crossings, including 15th Street, still might close permanently, but no final decisions have been made. Sparks hopes those changes will bring benefits.

"The horn is very deafening, so it would be really good to have that quiet zone in place," he said.

The city says their cost for a quiet zone could be nearly $6 million. Union Pacific will help out with that cost if the city agrees to close some crossings. Bryan could get a $500,000 if the Groesbeck Street crossing is permanently closed and $100,000 if the crossing at 15th Street is closed.

That means train crossings could change on two sets of tracks in the downtown district as early as 2020 or 2022.