Decision Points

City seeks input on Railroad Quiet Zone project -- update on public comment period

The City of Round Rock is seeking input regarding the Railroad Quiet Zone project. We held an Open House to present preliminary information and gather public input on Wednesday, Aug. 22, at the Baca Center.

UPDATE: Comments recieved through Friday, Sept. 21, will be included in the project record as comments received as part of the Open House meeting. Any comments received after that will be listened to, responded to and listed in project file notes but will not be included as part of the public meeting record.

The purpose of the Quiet Zone project is to make necessary safety improvements to six public at-grade highway-rail crossings along the Union Pacific Railroad’s mainline so that train operators will not be required to sound their horns.

Here is a map that shows the locations of the crossings (PDF) included in the project.

The individual crossings included in this project, and the recommended changes, are:

  • County Road 172 at McNeil Road (PDF) will add raised medians to the roadway and additional signs
  • Saint Williams Street at McNeil Road (PDF) is recommended for closure. The map shows alternate routes for motorists in Chisholm Valley. is recommended for closure. The cost to convert this intersection so it could remain open will more than double the cost for the entire project, while reasonable alternatives for access already exist. We have run the timing of the alternatives, and in no case does it take more than three minutes on average, and most often is two minutes or less. The map shows alternate routes for motorists in Chisholm Valley.
  • Raised medians and additional signs are recommended for the IH-35 frontage roads at McNeil Road (PDF)
  • Installation of a "quad gate" is recommended for South Burnet Street at Park Lane (PDF -- schematic of this recommendation is on the left side of the page)
  • New signs are recommended at Red Bud Lane at U.S. 79 (PDF -- schematic of this recommendation is on the right side of the page), where raised medians are already in place.

The project does not include the crossings on RM 620 at Chisholm Trail Road and on Sam Bass Road at Wonder Drive.

You can offer comments on the proposal at the City's Decision Points blog, or by contacting Chad Wood, P.E., city Transportation Engineer, at 218-6601. 

Comments

Joshua said:

I'm shocked and really bummed that they would close St Williams & McNeil! We use that intersection almost every day. I'm curious what the price difference is between closing it off & making it up to code for a no-horn crossing. Any idea? I bet the majority of the people who live in this neighborhood would be apposed to closing it as well, but nobody stays connected enough to know.

# August 26, 2012 10:37 AM

MrsZeke1 said:

I live on Tamra Court, it is already near impossible to get out of our street as it is during the school year. 50 more cars may not seem like a lot to you but to us it will make the difference in whether we get our kids to school on time or get to work on time. I don't think we should have to add travel time just to try to get off our own street.

# August 26, 2012 12:02 PM

rseandunham said:

Burnet gets fixed and St. Williams gets closed. What's the difference between these two crossings? Median home value of the neighborhoods is the #1 answer. Round Rock should give Chisholm Valley to Austin since they are determined to make residents all but drive south or west into Austin City limits before being able to turn east or north into Round Rock.

# August 26, 2012 6:05 PM

Char said:

I know that the Round Rock City Counsel understands that that most important thing are the people and children of this city.  With the proposal of closing the Saint Williams Street at McNeil Road, you will increase the traffic on Chrisom Valley Rd. which will endanger children that attend Bluebonnet Elementary plus endanger all residence at the intersection of Chrisom Valley Rd and County Road 172.  If someone is complaining about the railroad horn, then they have the choice move out of the neighborhood or put earplugs on and not put others in danger.  

# August 26, 2012 7:15 PM

sally forsythe said:

Quiet Zone?? Try telling our tax paying residents what it really means.  Road closure at St Williams and McNeil.  Traffic to be permanently detoured to Chisholm Valley drive and thru the school zone to Cty Rd 172, or to the I35 Southbound feeder road. Perhaps you could put a sign up at the intersection slated to be closed and DISCLOSE the truth. Perhaps you could hand out ear plugs to the residents who are complaining about the horn.  I believe more people use that crossing on a daily basis than travel up the non-residential Chisholm Trail in one week (where you are spending thousands of dollars). I would like to make informed decisions based on the TRUTH, like whether or not to attend a meeting.  My neighbor said she went to your "Quiet Zone" meeting and no one mentioned the Road Closure.  What gives?????

# August 26, 2012 9:16 PM

Laila Barragan said:

I can't believe you are considering closing St Williams & McNeil crossing. We need more available exits from this neighborhood. I live off Tamra Court and use the St Williams & McNeil crossing every day. There is already too much traffic on Chrisom Valley Rd during the day. More traffic would endanger the kids going to the Bluebonnet Elementary school and cause traffic jams at Chrisom Valley Rd and CR 172.  “Quite Zone” WHAT!!!!!  You got be kidding!!!!!!! We need the closing at St Williams & McNeil  left open!!!!!!

# August 27, 2012 1:40 PM

Glennc said:

Aw come on now, really?  Very sneaky, I would never have voted for that thing if I'd known about this closure. It isn't hard enough already to get around the W. side of 35?  The document is disingenuous, if you're heading S. on the W. side, there are only 2 ways to cross McNeil: this one and CR172.  The latter gets a little busier every day, we're going to end up getting light put in at Chisholm Valley just so people can get on to 172. The 3 minute estimate is, put it kindly, balderdash.  This quiet zone is a "nice-to-have", being able to get around  is a "have-to-have", if you can't do it right, don't do it at all.  I've been dealing with the train noise for 13yrs, frankly I don't even notice it anymore.  Well, it's been a nice run, but I don't think I'll be voting for any more road bonds again. I don't trust you guys any more.

# August 27, 2012 9:16 PM

Glennc said:

Of course, people on the W. side are already used to being forced through school zones.  In Round Rock West, it's not possible to go N. between McNeil and FM 620 without going through a school zone.  You're going to have to go by Deep Wood, RRHS, or CTMS.  People treat St. Williams, Deep Wood, Round Rock drive like a Speedway.  Going S. you do have 35 feeder, but it's just not smart to depend on highway feeders like that. If you look at a satellite pic, you can see what happened, the N-S line of CR 172 is interrupted by the "power lines" park at McNeil, and then picks up as Deep Wood on the other side of the creek.  And you can draw a line from the curve on 1325 to the bottom of CR 172 in much the same way.  Now, I don't know what you could do about RR West today, but it makes those school zones dangerous in the very same way you're threatening to do to Blue Bonnet. May I suggest we learn from past mistakes. :)

# August 27, 2012 11:44 PM

rberkley said:

Please don't close our crossing! I have been using it every day to get to and from the high school, Baca center, library.......many other places for 34 years. Around Bluebonnet School mornings and afternoons it is practically impossible to get through to CR 172 and going to Hesters is also a hassle. Why would you single out our crossing to close when all others remain open, even Burnet Street crossing which is little used. This doesn't make any sense at all.

# August 28, 2012 7:17 AM

Randy said:

First, here is my wife's comments she sent to the city:

I understand Saint Williams at McNeil crossing may close.  I have no real issue with that and understand the reasoning. One issue I do have is the syncing of the light at Oakridge and McNeil.  With the added traffic to CO172 and McNeil something needs to be done about the syncing of the Oakridge and McNeil light in accordance with the CO172 and McNeil light.

Also, I would like to see some sort of crosswalk put in either at CO172 and/or at McNeil and Saint Williams drive.  Middle School and High School children have no real safe way to cross the street into Chisholm Valley subdivision without darting cars and hoping for the best.  Just yesterday I saw a kid on a trying to cross at CO172 and McNeil.  Scary in my opinion. Even putting one in at Round Rock West and McNeil would be better than nothing.  Just an idea for the safety of our children and adults.  Plus it would make the area more walkable.  

Now, my two cents.  I hardly believe that any worthwhile due diligence was done on this project since school just started yesterday and that completely changes the dynamics of the flow of traffic in this neighborhood on the only real alternative to the proposed closing.  If you need to take McNeil or the CR172, you are pretty much forced into passing the school unless you want to fight traffic near IH35 on the other exits to our neighborhood.  Round Rock West got their own street light at Oakridge to assist them in leaving their neighborhood AND a sound barrier wall down the entire length of McNeil.  Meanwhile, on the "other side of the tracks" we received no sound barrier wall, no upgraded railroad crossing, no traffic light to assist in leaving our neighborhood and the greatest failure by city planners, NO CROSSWALK FOR PEDESTRIANS!  Hmm, some might look at this and conclude that the city thinks we are second class citizens compared to the fine upstanding taxpayers in Round Rock West.  

# August 28, 2012 8:31 AM

rberkley said:

The director of Williamson County EMS just returned my call. He was very nice and promised to do a study of the effects of closing the crossing on EMS services in our area and will communicate back to me and to RR transportation department engineer, Chad Wood.

# August 28, 2012 9:06 AM

sally forsythe said:

Well put, Randy.  I think you hit the nail on the head.  On the city web site it was noted that"progress is being made on developing a Railroad Quiet Zone along the Union Pacific line, most notably adjacent to the Round Rock West Neighborhood."  We must be non-existent to those folks downtown.  We have a petition drive and I have collected 65 signatures off two streets.  We'll go along with the proposed zone, we just want our crossing upgraded.  We'll probably have to take them to the Commissioner's Chambers on Sept 13, 2012. I found out that the railroad is requiring a traffic light at our intersection.  

# August 28, 2012 11:12 PM

sally forsythe said:

I started this am at 6:20 and ended at 8:00.  There were 351 vehicles that used that crossing.  Perhaps another feasibility study should be done.

# August 29, 2012 8:25 AM

German said:

Regarding the closure of St. Williams: First of all if "We have run the timing of the alternatives"; what was the methodology used to run this timing? Who performed this running of the timing? When was it done?

Secondly, if the cost of converting this intersection doubles the cost of the entire project, why is the link to the cost analysis not posted? Why does it double the cost? Furthermore if it does double the cost, so what?

The city of Round Rock can lay claim to one of the most expensive high school football stadiums ever built in the state but cannot upgrade a railroad crossing?....something is not right.

# August 29, 2012 10:26 AM

Will Hampton said:

@German -- the projected cost of the recommended changes is $1.5 million. Adding a quad gate and traffic signal at St. Williams would add $750,000 to $900,000 to the projected cost. I'll check with our Transportation Department to get a more detailed cost breakdown.

And, the City does not fund high school football stadiums. That is a Round Rock ISD project.

Will Hampton

Communications Director

City of Round Rock

# August 29, 2012 10:47 AM

Will Hampton said:

@Randy Thanks for sharing your opinion on the project. One note about the fence along McNeil Road on the north side of the street. That is not a sound barrier wall. It was constructed for aesthetic purposes.

# August 29, 2012 11:02 AM

sally forsythe said:

Just wondering who paid for the wall and if our taxpayers did......what was the cost?  Thanks

# August 29, 2012 12:19 PM

rberkley said:

I don't understand closing a street which has been open for nearly 40 years and since the subdivision was first put in. Every resident will need to go out of his way a minimum of 1 mile each and every time he wants to travel north from the subdivision, not to mention the traffic congestion will be worsened in front of Bluebonnet School. Please find a way to keep our St. Williams crossing open. Thank you.

# August 29, 2012 1:39 PM

rberkley said:

I hope the City knows the residents of Chisholm Valley West are not opposed to the Quiet Railroad Project. Although speaking for myself I enjoy the sound of the trains, after talking with people living very near the tracks I now know the train horns can decrease quality of life for them. We in Chisholm Valley West would like our crossing at St. Williams to be included in the Project and to be improved along with the others. Thanks for reading my opinion.

# August 30, 2012 11:24 PM

Anne Arellano said:

Closing the McNeil/St. Willimas RR crossing is a horrible idea! That is a main thoroughfare! If emergency services need to get to the Chisholm neighborhood, they will now have to go a mile to two miles out of their way to get to our homes. There is also a very congested school zone there, so good luck to anyone having a heart attack in the morning or afternoon if this road is closed. Come on, Round Rock, THINK about this.

If this is really about snobby HOA people on the "other side of the tracks" I hope they're ready for a fight. They can blame their realtors, but living next to train tracks means there are TRAINS! Trains are loud. Trains are long. Trains are there to stay. Even with their sound barrier rock walls...they are still unhappy. Time for them to UPGRADE and MOVE!

Round Rock, please spend our money wisely. Upgrade our crossing by making it SAFE.

# August 31, 2012 8:09 AM

Carly said:

I live on St Williams St and the closing of this crossing is a terrible idea! All of the added congestion is going to be an accident waiting to happen. Our one street has small children at every home on our block. The added traffic is a serious cause for concern. Not to mention the children getting to school. The quiet of the train is not worth the sacrifice of the safety of our children. Please reconsider the closing based off a "convenience" for people not liking the noise of the train. It should be a no-brainer on which one is more important.

# September 1, 2012 11:04 AM

sally forsythe said:

To all the folks who are tuned into this blog(which doesn't seem to be many)...We need to remember that this is still a PROPOSAL by the transportation dept.  The City Council will be meeting in their chambers on Sept 13 at 7pm at 221 E. Main.  For all those who are able to attend, we must remain respectful, quiet, and listen to our appointed speaker, Mr. and Mrs. Dunham, who have signed up to speak for 3 minutes each.  They will then ask us to stand up.  The Council and Mayor have done nothing to deserve our frustration.  This was a major breakdown in COMMUNICATION...So let's all BE NICE!

# September 1, 2012 2:31 PM

AnnV said:

I am a bit surprised and irritated by the expense and elaborate changes required to implement the Railroad Quiet Zone proposal. And it is this expense that is being used to justify the closing of the St. Williams crossing. Most, if not all, of these crossings already have signs, lights, and crossing arms. If drivers can't exercise enlightened self-interest and common sense, they should find another means of transit.

# September 5, 2012 10:15 AM

Dennis McG said:

I live in Round Rock West, and use the crossing often, for me it would be a bit of an inconvience at times.  I don't mind the train horns but then again I live about a half mile from the tracks.  For the residents of Chisholm Valley I feel their pain and think of that old saying I'M FROM THE GOVERMENT AND I'M HERE TO HELP!

Of all the crossing on the list I don't think any of them have more people living as close as the houses are in Chisholm Valley to the tracks.  For some of the people they may not hear the horn (if the quiet zone is in place) but they will still feel the vibration, hear the noise from the trains, and then have to take a detour to get out of their neighborhood.  How is this a benefit to Chisholm Valley Residents?

I say scrap the Quiet Zone Project, leave St. Williams crossing alone!

How is this being funded?    

# September 5, 2012 1:08 PM

Will Hampton said:

@sally forsythe -- regarding the fence along McNeil Road:

The City has performed corridor enhancement fencing projects at three locations throughout the City. These projects were taxpayer funded. These projects were not intended as sound walls, but as more or less permanent fencing projects. These projects were designed to address aesthetic concerns; it was felt the attractiveness of our community to the travelling public on these corridors suffered because the standard wood privacy fences that existed before the projects were in a constant state of flux – some were in disrepair, some would be replaced and then make all the rest seem out of place, etc.

Below is a list of the projects that have been completed, the amount of funds spent on each of the projects, and the source of the funds.

1. Both sides of Sunrise Road from just north of U.S. 79 to just south of Bowman Road. Cost $270,334. Of that total, $170,534 was from bonds approved by voters in 2001, with the balance from the City’s self-financed construction fund*.

2. Northwest side of McNeil Road from Saint William Catholic Church entrance to city limits southwest of Oakridge Drive. Cost $403,519. All funds for that project came from the 2001 bond package.

3. South side of Gattis School Road along the residential lots that back to the road from approximately Magnolia to just west of Greenlawn Boulevard, and from just east of Greenlawn to Windy Park Drive. Cost $229,649. Of that total, $203,029 came from the self-financed construction fund, with the balance from the 2001 bond package.

* Money goes into the self-financed construction fund when sales tax revenues exceed budget projections. The City Council typically uses those funds to pay for one-time capital expenses, such as the corridor enhancement project.

# September 5, 2012 3:01 PM

Kelly O said:

I'm very excited to hear about the RR QZ on McNeil and 172 after all these years. However, I never envisioned the closing of St Williams @ McNeil as part of this deal.

...and I totally agree with Will Hampton...the wall along McNeil is certainly not a sound wall.

# September 6, 2012 11:31 AM

SKrause said:

I live in Round Rock West and am very close to the "horn zone" and am extremely excited for the quiet zone project. It will improve my quality of life and increase my home value. Thank you to Will Hampton and those officials who got this project done. I had heard this was happening for years and am glad it is finally becoming a reality.

# September 6, 2012 10:00 PM

Jinxleah said:

We have few enough exits out of this neighborhood as it is. This is one of the few that is convenient and straightforward. Closing off St. Williams Street is a horrible idea!

# September 6, 2012 10:41 PM

DonH said:

Quiet Zones really sounds like another “FEEL GOOD” project. Several questions need to be addressed before this idea moves forward.

1. Who benefits from the quite zones?

2. Does this help UP run their trains faster through Round Rock?

3. How much is the cost per beneficiary?  

4. Will Quiet Zones reduce the shaking and rattling of the freight trains?

5. Who pays for maintenance?

6. What other means have been investigated for stopping traffic at crossings?

7. How effective are the crossbars at stopping a fleeing criminal?

8. What are the replacement costs?

9. Why should the City be involved?

10. Who is hurt by implementing this project?

11. Are there other programs that should be a higher priority for the taxpayers’ funds?

Your due diligence in answering these questions will be appreciated.

# September 7, 2012 5:44 AM

rberkley said:

Community Impact says, "The City is considering closing the crossing at St. Williams because of space confinements that would not allow for building the safety features required." That's a new one on me. Which is it, the above or is it money. which was the reason previously given?

The City of Round Rock has not communicated well with the residents about this issue. They want to close a street which has been operating well for nearly 50 years and being very secretive about it.

I am not at all impressed how this is being handled. Only one council member has even bothered to answer email inquiries about this issue.

I really don't get this. It is so UNLIKE ROUND ROCK to operate in this fashion.

# September 7, 2012 1:37 PM

Will Hampton said:

@DonH

1. Who benefits from the quite zones?

All residences and businesses currently within earshot of the train horns today will benefit from reduced noise.  Vehicular and pedestrian traffic will benefit from the new physical safety improvements at the railroad crossings.

2. Does this help UP run their trains faster through Round Rock?  

The establishment of a Quiet Zone will not affect the allowable train speeds.

3. How much is the cost per beneficiary?

That's difficult to determine. How would you define beneficiary?

4. Will Quiet Zones reduce the shaking and rattling of the freight trains?

The establishment of a Quiet Zone will not affect the train loads or speeds, which are the primary variables of ground vibrations caused by trains.  However, cessation of the 120+ soundings at each crossing each day of the 110-decibel train horns will be a nearly complete reduction of the primary variable of air vibrations caused by trains.

5. Who pays for maintenance?

The City of Round Rock, as the local governmental entity applying for the Quiet Zone, will be fiscally responsible for maintenance of any and all railroad track or crossing improvements required.

6. What other means have been investigated for stopping traffic at crossings?

The Quiet Zone project is not concerned with stopping traffic at the crossings.  The establishment of a Quiet Zone is accomplished through safety improvements only.

7. How effective are the crossbars at stopping a fleeing criminal?

The gates used to stop traffic from entering the at-grade highway rail crossing are safety features, not law-enforcement tools.

8. What are the replacement costs?

Replacement as it relates to what?

9. Why should the City be involved?

The local government must be the applicant to the Federal Railroad Administration.

10. Who is hurt by implementing this project?

This project is being considered for the benefit of the community whose members have asked for the project. We're not sure how you would define "hurt."

11. Are there other programs that should be a higher priority for the taxpayers’ funds?

The city has many transportation improvement projects underway and planned for the future. www.roundrocktexas.gov/.../index.asp

This project has been planned for several years.

Will Hampton

Communications Director

City of Round Rock

# September 7, 2012 4:46 PM

DonH said:

Will, thank you for your response. The point of asking the questions was to help you and the council realize that perhaps all sides of the problem have not been addressed. Planning for the installation of the crossbars and other safety features is one thing, but asking the question, "what is the problem?" might shed light on the bigger issues.

Why does the problem exist? How many complaints have there been? How have other cities responded to this kind of problem?  Are there other ways to make crossings safe...like, raise an additional barrier out of the ground instead of adding two crossbars?

I bet the UT students could think of several approaches that would be most cost effective.

But I digress, if only a few have the problem, why harm as many or more that will have to drive further in heavier traffic to get to work or school?

The point is this "problem" may not be real but simply a way get votes because the city did something and unfortunately, the action may cost more in the future than the installation costs.

I am real sorry that the project has been in planning for several years. What a waste of time and effort.

# September 8, 2012 7:45 AM

sally forsythe said:

Have you taken a 600 mile trip lately?  Have you considered the cost in time and money to do that?  Think about doing that thru a school zone.  That's the least of what's being asked of hundreds of residents where this closure is taking place.  Two miles/day for approx 300 days/yr.  Well I guess the increased property value for some will be met off the backs of the many.

# September 8, 2012 8:40 AM

sally forsythe said:

I counted the cars  traveling in front of Bluebonnet Elementary between 7 and 8 AM this week.  There weere 326 vehicles and 13 buses.  This was not even considered in the traffic circulation study.  In fact, Bluebonnet is not even on the Yahoo maps, (our parks are though).  

# September 8, 2012 8:56 AM

sally forsythe said:

The count that was performed at Bluebonnet was the daily count.  Thanks

# September 10, 2012 9:43 AM

sally forsythe said:

Before this blog heads into the clouds I would like to thank the kind souls who recognized our plight and commented on behalf of our neighborhood.

The Council meets on Thurs at 7pm in their Chambers and we need to remember to leave our frustration with the Transportation Dept. at home and concentrate on being worthy of the Council's good graces.  SAVE OUR CROSSING!

# September 12, 2012 12:42 PM

rberkley said:

Thanks to Mayor Alan McGraw and the Council for listening to our representative, Cherie Dunham at last night's meeting who made it clear our desire is to keep the St. Williams crossing operational. We look forward to working cooperatively with city staff and the council in order to resolve this issue in way that is best for our community.

# September 14, 2012 6:44 AM
Remember:
If you would like to comment, you need to join Community Conversations