Starting with the City

City Level

Our business is moving to a building in City Council District 2 on the railroad tracks. Our first attempt to understand Quiet Zones was emailing our representative's office and inquiring about them. What zones are in place? Are there any in process? How do we add a new one?

They must be compiling a tremendous amount of information for us since we haven't gotten a reply in over three weeks.

Googling around we found the SA Public Works web site. They have a page on Quiet Zones but it has little detail and is a dead end. Their site does have a Service Request System but there is nothing directly related to Quiet Zones. Instead, we submitted a request to have "No Train Horn" signs installed on all the relevant railroad crossings south of the Alamo Dome to 37 South. Maybe someone will respond to that, but they say it may take three weeks for a response. We'll be denied but maybe we can get a conversation going.

Go Federal

Not much luck with the city so far so time to jump the chain of command. The Federal Railroad Administration is in charge. Searching there we found the Guide to the Quiet Zone Establishment Process. It gives a nice overview of train horn history and...

7 Steps to Establish a Quiet Zone

1. Determine which crossings to include

We are interested in all crossings South of the Alamo Dome to the 37 overpass. There are a lot more crossings that want to be in Quiet Zones that span multiple city districts but that seems like an advanced move. Let's try the simplest thing that works for us first.

2. Identify private crossings

None where we are looking.

3. Identify pedestrian crossings

There are sidewalks along most of these crossings.

4. Update the US DOT Crossing Inventory

Using the 8.01 - Query by Location form we looked up Carolina, Delaware, Florida and Hoefgen crossing data, which all looked accurate.

5. Provide a Notice of Intent

We're not sure we can do this so we'll skip this for now

6. Alternative Safety Measures

Again something we need help with but we'll do the homework for this

7. Determine how the Quiet Zone will be established

This step links to a web-based QZ Calculator.

Using the Quiet Zone Calculator

First we create a login. To create a New Zone, we add a Name and Zone Type (New 24-hour QZ). A search form helps us add the Union Pacific San Antonio crossings to our zone. The Crossings have a unique ID number, Milepost, Type and Street and are listed in the order they occur on the track. Google Maps let us look up all the crossings we are interested in from Alamo Dome to 37.

Crossings we add:

Crossing ID Mile Type Street
764289B 0210.20 PUB Delaware St
764290V 0210.29 PUB Florida St
764291C 0210.38 PUB Carolina St
764292J 0210.54 PUB Hoefgen St

Then we need to update and verify each of the crossing's information. For example:

Present warn device: Highway Signals
Number of highway vehicles per day: 000360
Total trains: 28
Day through trains : 14
Total Switching Trains : 0
Number of main tracks: 2
Number of other tracks: 1
Urban(U.)/Rural(R.): U.Local
Highways paved: Yes
Maximum timetable speed mph: 25
Number of highway lanes: 2
Number of years accident data: 5
Number of accidents in accident data years: 0
Wayside horn: No
Pre-Existing SSM: No

Most of this information is pre-populated and we don't know whether it is accurate or not. For Delaware we do correct the Present Warn Device because it actually has Gates with flashing lights and warning bells. Once the crossings are verified we proceed to our new scenario. The table at the top is what is important with the Risk value the most critical.

Crossing Street Traffic Warning Device Pre-SSM SSM Risk
764289B DELAWARE ST 360 Gates 0 0 11,922.58
764290V FLORIDA ST 2000 Gates 0 0 20,579.09
764291C CAROLINA ST 2290 Gates 0 0 22,829.40
764292J HOEFGEN ST 890 Gates 0 0 166,074.38

The Nationwide Risk number is 14347 and Risk with Horns is 33184.27. We read this to mean that if all the crossings in the proposed Quiet Zone are less than 33184.27, the zone can be automatically approved. If the risk is above that number, then Supplementary Safety Measure (SSM) must be addressed. For our zone, the Hoefgen Street Crossing with a risk of 166,074.38 needs help.

By modifying a crossing's SSM, the Risk number is re-calculated and an estimated cost is listed. We go through each SSM option and watch the effects to risk and cost.

SSM Options

1 Temporary Closure of a Public Highway-Rail Grade Crossing
2 Permanent Closure of a Public Highway-Rail Grade Crossing
3 Grade Separation of a Public Highway-Rail Grade Crossing
4 Four-Quadrant Gates Upgrade from Two Quadrant gates, No Vehicle Presence Detection
5 Four-Quadrant Gates Upgrade from Two Quadrant Gates, with medians and no Vehicle Presence Detection
6 Four-Quadrant Gates Upgrade from Two Quadrant Gates, with Vehicle Presence Detection
7 Four-Quadrant Gates Upgrade from Two Quadrant Gates, with medians and Vehicle Presence Detection
8 Four-Quadrant Gates New Installation, No Vehicle Presence Detection
9 Four-Quadrant Gates New Installation with medians and no Vehicle Presence Detection
10 Four-Quadrant Gates New Installation with Vehicle Presence Detection
11 Four-Quadrant Gates New Installation with medians and Vehicle Presence Detection
12 Mountable medians with Reflective Traffic Channelization Devices
13 Non-Traversable Curb Medians with or without Channelization Devices
14 One-Way Streets with Gates

After cycling through the options, the cheapest option we found was using "12 Mountable medians with Reflective Traffic Channelization Devices". This is a system of rounded urethane curbs that have tubes or reflective panels mounted in them to prevent cars from driving around the train gates. The estimated cost is $13,000 and Risk Index for Hoefgen drops to 41,518.60!

What does this mean?

We're not sure. We think if we can figure out how to get the Hoefgen crossing street modified, the Risk Index for the entire Zone would drop to 55,351.36 (which is less than 2 x Risk Index of Horns or 66,368.54) so it should be possible to get the Quiet Zone approved.

We have emailed the Federal Railroad Administration to see who can review our Quiet Zone report and confirm the possibility.

UPDATE: The FRA has already replied and is putting us in contact with two people for QZ guidance.