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San Marcos trains will sound their horns through the city after nearly a decade of silence

A yellow sign with the words "No Train Horn" stands on the side of the road before a railroad crossing in San Marcos.
Maya Fawaz
KUT News
"Quiet zones" in San Marcos will no longer be quiet as train horns sound again through the city for the first time since 2015.

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An inspection last week of the train crossings in San Marcos showed several violations, including missing safety markings and barriers. The violations mean that the city's “quiet zones,” where trains aren’t allowed to sound horns, will no longer be quiet until things are up to code.

“A lot of people have gotten used to not hearing those horns. There are a lot of neighborhoods and businesses that are in the vicinity of the tracks,” said Rey Garcia, senior project engineer with the City of San Marcos. “Those are the people that will probably be affected the most.”

In the southern part of the city, residents of the Hunter Ridge neighborhood behind Posey Road live so close to the tracks that they can feel the rumble of the trains as they pass by on the tracks. Residents of the neighborhood said they hadn’t received any warning about the quiet zones temporarily going away.

"I'm a little upset about it," said resident Paul Luna. "For safety reasons, it's probably good, but then at the same time, when it's three o'clock in the morning and they're coming down the railroad track... it is what it is."

Another neighbor, Brette Riley, feels there's already plenty of noise in the neighborhood from Interstate 35 being so close by.

“We’re kind of immune now,” said Riley, who has lived in the neighborhood for seven years.

He said he likes to visit railroad museums and has traveled around the country by train, so he's quite fond of train sounds.

"I don't think the average citizen out here fully appreciates how huge the rail industry is and how strong America is," Riley said. "It's kind of reassuring to hear them."

After years of planning, all 19 of the city’s train crossings were made into quiet zones in 2015. In exchange, the city needed to maintain additional safety measures at these crossings, like placing signs and barriers around the tracks.

Garcia, who helped launch the quiet zones nearly a decade ago, said improvements were made to railroad crossings, but a recent inspection conducted by the Federal Railroad Administration showed things weren’t up to code.

Warning signs, pavement markings and barriers were missing on the railroad crossings along Posey Road, Center Point Road, McCarty Lane and Hopkins Street. Two private crossings along McCarty Lane and Wonder World Drive also had violations.

Now, for at least the next three to six months, these quiet zones are going to be quite loud.

Around the corner from the crossing on Posey Road is First Step School in San Marcos, a preschool and childcare institution. Kimberly Schulle, the school's assistant director, said she’s nervous to have the train horns start blowing regularly because the trains rumbling on the tracks were already enough of a distraction for kids in the classroom.

“All of them will get really excited, jump up and want to go see it,” she said. “If they’re going to be coming through and blowing those horns, it’s going to wake up our kids at nap time and our kids need their sleep.”

Schulle said she hopes the repairs are done quickly. Until then, she'll try her best to keep the classroom on track.

Maya Fawaz is KUT's Hays County reporter. Got a tip? Email her at Follow her on Twitter @mayagfawaz.
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