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Hays Free Press
Kyle, Texas
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December 8, 2010     Hays Free Press
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December 8, 2010
 

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Hays Free Press December 8, 2010 OPiNiON Page 3A BY SEAN KIMMONS sean@haysfreepress.com An apparently deaf woman was almost hit by a Union Pacific train Saturday as crowds converged in downtown Buda for its annual Bu- dafest celebration, police say. The train sounded its horn but still had to come to a complete stop to prevent a tragic incident, authorities say. "She was just standing there on the track, facing the other way," Buda Police Chief Bo Kidd said Tuesday. By the time officers arrived, the woman had walked off and wasn't questioned. Officers on scene were told that the woman was deaf, Kidd said. Kidd said that Union Pacific was notified before the event to slow down while traveling through the city to avoid collisions. The train was stopped for about 10 minutes, blocking traffic to the event, as crewmembers inspected the train before moving again, Kidd said. Many people step across the train tracks as a shortcut to get to festival areas, such as Buda City Park and the city's greenbelt, during the city's annual festivities. Walking along the tracks is against the law and pedestrians should avoid them, except at marked crossings. "The safest thing to do is cross the tracks at the crossings," Kidd said. Ramon Zapata, 16, was killed Dec. 1 when he was struck by a Union Pacific train as he walked along the railroad tracks about a quarter mile south from downtown Kyle, The inci- dent is still under investigation. Freight trains don't travel at fixed times, and schedules for passenger trains change. Always expect a train at each highway-rail intersection. All train tracks are private prop- erty. Never walk on tracks; it's ille- gal trespass and highly dangerous. By the time a locomotive engineer sees a trespasser or vehicle on the tracks it's too late. It takes the average freight train traveling at 55 mph more than a mile - the length ' of 18 football fields - to stop. ' Trains cannot stop quickly enough to avoid a collision. The average locomotive weighs about 400,000 pounds or 200 tons; it can weigh up to 6,000 tons. This makes the weight ratio of a car to a train proportional to that of a soda can to a car. We all know what happens to a soda can hit by a car. Trains have the right of way 100% of the time over emergency vehicles, cars, the police and pedestrians. A train can extend three feet or more beyond the steel rail, putting the safety zone for pedestrians well beyond the three foot mark. If there are rails on the railroad ties always assume the track is in use, even if there are weeds or the track looks unused. Trains can move in either direc- tion at any time. Sometimes their cars are pushed by locomotives instead of being pulled, which is especially true in commuter and light rail passenger service. Today's trains are quieter than ever, producing no telltale "clackety-clack." Any approach- ing train is always closer, mowng faster, that you think There are over 160,000 miles of railroad tracks in the United States (Association of American Rail- roads). Remember to cross them only at designated pedestrian or roadway crossings, and obey all warning signs and signals posted there. At many crossings you'll see a sign bearing a number. Use that to identify your exact location when calling to report an emergency, Stay alert around railroad tracks. No texting, headphones or other distractions that would prevent you from hearing an ap- proaching train; never mix rails and recreation. ' Train Fatality Continued from pg. 1A muffled out the sounds of the train's horn, were found. "He did have a .22 caliber rifle with him as he walked along the tracks, which was recovered at the scene," Blake said. In a written statement, City of Kyle spokesper- son Jerry Hendrix said walking along train tracks is against the law and urged residents to avoid the rails. "There is no indication that this is anything more than a tragic accident." Hendrix said. An autopsy has been performed by Central Texas Autopsy in Lockhart; however, findings will not be made public until weeks later after a toxicology report is completed, officials say. Zapata is at least the fourth person killed by a train in Hays County in a little more than two years. All of those cases were in San Marcos and all involved probable suicides in which the per- son did not move offthe tracks when warning horns were sounded. No one was injured in October 2009 when an Amtrak train collided with a car that was stuck on the Main Street crossing in downtown Buda. i A funeral service for Zapata was held Satur- i day at Sfi Anthony's Catholic Church in Kyle. He r~as then buried at San Vincente Cemetery on , Old Stagecoach Rd. Union Pacific paid for the funeral expenses. Fuston said. Ramon Zapata loved the outdoors. especially hunting and fishing. Kyle complex: Council approves apartments near Amberwood i Continued from pg. 1A [ crunch of 2008 and the site i plan has since expired. Before the planning and zoning . commission last month and the city council on Tuesday, Westwood asked officials m reinstate their original deal which included some loos- ened development standards such as a reduction in parking from two spaces per unit to 1 5 and smaller trees to count | " . , toward landscaping require- ments. Though it took a circu- itous path in getting there, the council, at the urging of Mayor Lucy Johnson, eventu- ally accepted the site plan and variance requests with the exception of one request to reduce the number of trees from one for every 600 feet of land area to one for every 1,500, ~hich the council did not act on. Johnson said keeping the full landscaping requirement in tact isthe city's only avenue for answering concerns from property owners on Amber- wood Loop whose backyards will back up to the apartment complex. "There are only certain things that we can do because this development is multi- family. They're allowed to do a lot of things and they've done some things that they didn't have to do," Johnson said. A handful of residents turned out to express opposi- tion or at least concern about Bella Paloma, many echoing resident Abey Bruce's concern about apartment buildings looming over their back prop- erty lines. "There's going to be three- story units looking directly in the backyard of Amberwood residents. It's a total invasion of privacy, specifically mine," Bruce said. Westwood took measures not required in city develop- ment standards to lessen the impact on its neighbors, said leffLindsey, the company's senior vice president. Al- though there are no setback or buffer requirements for multi- family development, none of the complex's 13 buildings is closer than 100 feet to the property line. Density require- ments allow the inclusion of 36 additional units on the 21- acre tract, Lindsey said. and all but two of the buildings are oriented such that the ends of the building face toward the Amberwood single-family home lots. Russ Huebner, the only council member to vote against the site plan, said, "Quite frankly, ifI had an apartment complex coming in behind my home, I would be concerned about my property value, my ability to sell my house in the future... I would feel concern myself having a six-food wooden fence as the only barrier between me and who knows what's on the other side." At one point when Huebner moved to table the package, Lindsey interjected, "I can't af- ford to have this tabled. If you tell me it passes ifI put up an eight-foot fence, I'll do it. 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