Safety concerns surround east Houston rail crossing

The protective arms that usually warn drivers of a coming train are gone, and it will cost thousands of dollars to bring them back
January 30, 2014 4:22:50 PM PST
Multiple crashes have turned one east Houston railroad crossing into a safety hazard. The protective arms that usually warn drivers of a coming train are gone, and it will cost thousands of dollars to bring them back.

Union Pacific says it will cost $15,000 to put them back in place, and it's not the first time it has had to replace them.

"Definitely a risk, you don't want to be in this area on a Friday or Saturday night," business owner Ricky Hickman said.

Hickman knows all too well what can happen Friday and Saturday nights.

"There's a lot of little Tejano bars in this area on the weekends and it seems like they get tipsy," Hickman said.

For 30 years, his company has manufactured tubing in the 1000 block of McCarty, just feet away from what he calls a dangerous railroad crossing.

"One of the wrecks the other night was a girl in a Suburban and she is lucky to be alive," he said.

It's an all too familiar scenario he captured on his surveillance camera. Video taken last Sunday morning shows a white car zooming by then hitting the railroad crossing arm.

"We have had 14 drivers hit the signal equipment since 2011," Union Pacific Spokesperson Raquel Espinoza said.

Espinoza says it's become a pattern. This month, the signal system has been hit three weekends in a row.

"We do think that alcohol is probably a factor in these cases," she said.

She believes the cars swerve from their lane and then hit the signal system located on the median. So now, one of the conductors must get off the train to stop traffic before entering the crossing.

"It takes us longer to get the trains through. We are probably blocking crossings while we are doing this, but at the end of the day, we are always going to take the safest route," Espinoza said.

HPD has responded to numerous accidents at the crossing arm. The railroad company is now working with city officials to find an alernative that would replace crossing arms altogether.

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