Zone quiets trains – mostly

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It’s been a year since downtown Kilgore’s quiet zone – several years in development – was finally completed, established and enforced.

In the 12 months since, the number of trains sounding their horns as they pass through three Kilgore crossing has been greatly-reduced though not entirely eliminated.

“If there’s still a hazard, it’s their duty to still sound their horn and make sure people are aware,” Kilgore City Manager Josh Selleck said Tuesday. “Unfortunately, this doesn’t remove all hazards. Even with the quiet zone, there are issues with pedestrians using the tracks, as we saw with one fatality accident this year – it’s not clear exactly what happened.”

In that incident, 38-year-old Jeremy Nathan Owens was struck by a passing train between the Lantrip Street crossing and the Hwy. 42 overpass. Conductors reported sounding the horn four or five times to alert the man of the approaching train.

“There’s still a need for the trains to blow their horns in town,” Selleck said. “If they see someone or something in their way, that’s their only way of alerting those people.”

Overall, the sound of train horns has dropped from between 12- and 20-plus per day to a handful of times per week. The quiet zone encompasses three crossings over the Union Pacific line at Main Street, Lantrip and Southport Road.

At a guess, about 95 percent of the train’s blasts have been silenced, Selleck noted.

“I know from a downtown perspective, many of the downtown folks are very pleased with the quiet,” he said. “When before we had dozens of trains coming through town everyday blowing their horns, it was more difficult to do business. You may still hear a horn every now and then, but it significantly decreased the amount of noise pollution in the downtown.”

Each of the three crossings has become much safer, Selleck said.

“We basically have precluded people from running the stop barricades by putting in the center medians, adding additional signage, adding additional visibility. There are other tertiary benefits that came out of the project as well,” he added. “I think it has been successful. We’ve had some challenges around people becoming acclimated with the zone, but I think for the most part people are used to it now, and it’s been reasonably well-received.”

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