At the city of Orange’s Jan. 25 meeting, elected leaders were bombarded by pleas from several residents to make a 3.5 mile stretch of the city a designated “quiet zone” for train horns. And, although council representatives were prohibited by law from responding to the comments, city staffers indicated the proposal was already being explored. On March 8, an answer to the citizen plights was given in the form of a quiet zone that spans an area from Main Avenue to Cordrey Avenue and shutting off W. John Avenue, W. Orange Avenue and W. Pine Avenue crossings.
Leading the crusade to stop the train horns’ blaring noise was attorney Leslie Barras, who presented the city council and Mayor Brown Claybar with statistics related to train crossing noises and the number of vehicles using the crossings in the proposed corridor, raw figures for the cost of turning a portion of Orange into a quiet zone for train whistles and an outline of the scope of the project proposed by Barras and a group of neighborhood residents. She, and more than a few others, expressed to the city’s leaders a strong sentiment that rerouting traffic was a small price to pay for residents along the corridor to finally receive a little peace and quiet.
Aside from the safety issues associated with excessive rail crossings, residents living near the tracks presented issues with quality of life, property value depreciation and loss of business. A representative from Serenity House said the quiet zone would give clients of the business the tranquility promised by the very virtue of the organization’s moniker and a bed-and-breakfast owner, who claimed the train whistles are devastating his business because customers won’t return to the establishment, told city leaders the project would give him and guests of his property “an opportunity to get a good night’s sleep.” And still more comments were waged on residential property owner’s woes – one man said his dog went deaf from the sirens, and he was well on his way to a similar fate; a working father said his children’s scholastic endeavors were being compromised by lack of sleep from the horns blaring at all hours of the day and night; and another concerned citizen said he has raised more than 200 signatures on a petition to the city requesting the zone’s institution.
Homeowner Sandra Jolly, with a touch of cynicism, said not everything about the train crossing locations was negative. According to her, after sending in five pictures of her home’s proximity to the train tracks her property taxes were cut by 10 percent.
Mayor Claybar said the city has a history of taking citizen complaints and concerns seriously, and with immediate action forth- coming.
City of Orange director of public works Jim Wolf said funds to close crossings and set up a quiet zone will be provided through a $322,500 incentive provided to the city by the Texas Department of Transportation to be used for safety and roadway improvements.