Houston residents urge leaders to clear trains blocking crossings

Residents say the trains keep parked, generally for hours, interrupting journey and inflicting emergency responders to discover new routes to calls.

HOUSTON — In the three months since KHOU 11 first reported on trains stopped on tracks in Houston neighborhoods, town council is working to get them shifting.

Currently, the accountability is totally on corporations and the federal authorities.

Residents mentioned the trains keep parked, generally for hours, interrupting journey and inflicting emergency responders to discover new routes to calls.

RELATED: Stopped trains in Houston create extra than simply delays

On Thursday, metropolis officers shared outcomes to this point of a pilot program utilizing sensible cameras at six railroad crossings to measure knowledge.

Between March 10 and April 5 at a crossing at 5200 Lawndale, the information discovered 107 blockages lasting greater than an hour and 32 lasting greater than three hours. The longest lasted almost 15 hours.

“The train stops have gotten longer,” mentioned Clay Dippel, who has lived within the Eastwood neighborhood since December 2020. “There are more trains. The trains themselves are longer.”

Dippel mentioned these blockages make planning powerful and delays dad and mom dropping off their children at close by faculties.

“It just sits here freaking all night,” mentioned Martin Wells, proprietor of H-Town Car Wash on Lawndale Street, subsequent to the tracks. “I run a million-dollar company, but I’m losing a lot of money.”

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It’s additionally compelled Houston firefighters and paramedics to adapt response routes. Station 18 in Eastwood is surrounded by a triangle of practice tracks.

“Since 2019, we’ve had over 3,200 instances where our first responder vehicles have had to divert as a result of the blocked intersections and crossings over the trains,” mentioned Chief Sam Peña of Houston Fire Department throughout a joint metropolis council meeting on the topic Thursday at City Hall.

Railroad officers advised metropolis council members a number of points can stall trains. Those embrace mechanical issues, trespassers, or congestion from the variety of items shifting by way of Houston due to the area’s financial progress.

“We are looking at what improvements can be made, some of which we had talked about earlier, between signal upgrades and within the yard itself,” mentioned Richard Zientek, Senior Director, Public Affairs with Union Pacific.

Council Member Robert Gallegos, whose District I contains the Greater East End, mentioned town will ship the sensible digicam knowledge to the railroad corporations.

He’s additionally been in contact with federal officers.

“Transportation Secretary (Pete) Buttigieg, he called me this morning,” mentioned Council Member Gallegos. “He said that they will be looking at this committee meeting, the Department of Transportation, and he will make sure that the Federal Railroad Administration also looks at this information that we discussed today.”

Dippel additionally hopes council members will go after federal infrastructure {dollars}.

The metropolis is at present designing underpasses to keep away from railroad tracks on Commerce and York Streets.

Officials hope to broaden the sensible digicam pilot program to railroad crossings in different neighborhoods.

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