From the Austin American Statesman
By Ben Wear on 4/30/2010
Rail a rude awakening for some
Nina Warwick has a new alarm clock, 140 feet of shiny red-and-silver metal that sounds without warning two hours before she, her husband, David, and their children would otherwise awaken. Several times. And there's no snooze button.
Sometime before 5:25 a.m. each weekday, Capital Metro's commuter train horns begin blowing a quarter mile from their windows. The Warwicks, who have lived in their Leander home for about 20 years , are among 17 sleep-deprived neighbors who earlier this month petitioned the Leander City Council to create a "quiet zone" at RM 2243.
Federal railroad rules allow cities to seek such a status, which bars train engineers from blowing the horn at a crossing unless a specific safety threat crops up, as long as the road intersection has four-armed gates or other added measures to keep cars off the tracks. The RM 2243 rail crossing has had a "quad" gate in place since early 2009, more than a year before MetroRail began service last month. It's one of the few stretches of the 32-mile commuter rail line from Leander to downtown Austin that isn't in a quiet zone.
Leander leaders in 2005 created a quiet zone along Capital Metro's railroad at Crystal Falls Parkway , in the south part of the city, but apparently overlooked the crossing nearest the line's terminus on the north side of the city.
"Maybe I did a little ball-dropping on that," said Leander Mayor John Cowman, who has served on the Capital Metro board since 2004, when MetroRail development began. Cowman lives in a home just off Crystal Falls Parkway, about 1.3 miles west of the Capital Metro tracks.
Cowman promised Warwick the city would create an RM 2243 quiet zone when she appeared at the council meeting to present her petition. Capital Metro, which helps cities with the technical aspects of the application in such cases, should have relevant information to Leander sometime next week, agency spokesman Adam Shaivitz said.