Waxahachie residents were stuck last Friday, waiting for repairs to be made to a Union Pacific freight train that blocked intersections from Parks School House Road to Grand Avenue for more than two hours beginning at 3 p.m.
Although there are no immediate plans to change the route rail traffic follows at this time, the city is looking at other options that could reduce the noise level of passing trains and a plan that could reroute rails proposed by a developer.
“What we have looked at for the future is essentially a rerouting of the rail around the downtown. We have two sets of tracks: one on the south side and one on the north side of downtown. If you have a train stalled out on either one of those you are blocking a number of intersections,” Assistant City Manager Michael Scott said.
“We had a developer come in looking to develop a piece of property just east of town and looking at accommodating railroad traffic. They were looking to get the rail to come through the piece of property to develop it for that type of warehousing use,” Scott said, noting the development would reroute tracks and bypass many of the crossings the city has now.
“The new segment would join (in) just east of town,” he said.
The project proposed by the developer would make a connection at the existing Union Pacific line at Grand Avenue and run just a little to the north of U.S. Highway 287 Bypass. The project to reroute rail traffic has not been widely known because the project never got the traction to get moving, but property has been acquired.
“Also, to do this, all the property in between would have to acquired, which would mean buying property or condemning property,” Scott said. “You would also have issues where you would be splitting property up to do that.
“The other issue is that we have two railroads in the area. You would also have to double track it because you could not put all of that rail traffic on one set of tracks and acquire that additional right away.”
Director of Public Works Jeff Chambers said he’s often asked, “Why don’t you just build a train bridge over the crossings to eliminate the problem?”
That’s not feasible because of the space required to place a rail bridge over the crossings and the distance that would be needed for the train to climb the grade.
The city has also looked into installing quiet zones at the rail crossings in order to reduce the noise that a passing train’s horn produces. This could be done by installing a medium in the roadway that would prevent vehicles from crossing the track. It also could mean installing a quad gate that would have four signal arms that would come down to block traffic.
Instead of the train blowing its a horn, a horn would be installed on the cross buck that would sound at a lower decibel and still give plenty of warning to drivers.
If the city does this, it becomes responsible for all of the maintenance and upkeep of the crossings.
“We have engineered drawings that are 90 percent complete to do that through the entire city and we had planned to issue bonds either this year or next year for that. But with the economy right now, it is not possible,” City Manager Paul Stevens said.
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