MARION COUNTY, Texas (KLTV) - It’s happened to all of us: stuck at a railroad crossing by a passing train. Usually it doesn’t take too long. But, at a crossing in Marion County, the wait can sometimes be nearly a half hour.
Robin Johnson has lived on FM 2208 about three years, and says she’s waited on a stopped train on that road near Jefferson three times.
“It’s not necessarily just in the morning time. It’s happening around lunch time too,” Johnson said.
Anyone using the road can be affected.
“I mean this is ridiculous. I saw an ambulance turn around twenty minutes ago that had their lights on. So whether they were having a medical emergency out here, that’s a problem. It’s a problem if there’s a fire out here. We had one out here back Christmas Eve, and had that train been stopped on the tracks two houses would have been gone,” Johnson said.
A couple miles north there is also a crossing in Jefferson.
“But if this one’s blocked a lot of times there’s another train blocking 49 in Jefferson too,” Johnson said.
Jefferson Mayor Rob Baker says Jefferson is where two rail companies meet.
“Well, we’ve got the UP and the KCS both coming through town, so at times there’s congestion upstream if you will, towards Texarkana, or downstream, and there’s basically signal lights that the trains have to follow,” Baker said.
Back in 2017 there was a problem with that and according to Union Pacific, Kansas City Southern collided with a UP train causing a derailment of 13 cars.
But when a train stops vehicular traffic, most think waiting is quicker than going another route, according to County Judge Leward LaFleur.
“If you’re stuck at 2208 and you want to go around to 49 it’s about a twenty minute run,” LaFleur said.
Mayor Baker has been talking with Union Pacific about the issue, and Baker thinks moving the Union Pacific signal light south of 49 may solve the problem. The train would then stop for a crossing train before it gets to 49.
“We’re looking at a railroad infrastructure that’s been here a long time. Now that Jefferson has grown, the neighboring areas have grown, the county’s grown; now we’re looking at, hey, this wasn’t set up the best way for today’s population and today’s traffic patterns,” Baker said.
If the signal is moved, a stopped train may still block the crossing at 2208, depending on the length of the train.
Union Pacific released a statement saying they are talking with the judge and the mayor and added:
Union Pacific works to minimize blocked crossings caused by stopped trains. Our goal is to keep trains moving and we consistently evaluate our operating plans to ensure that we are moving rail shipments efficiently. We encourage drivers and pedestrians to report blocked crossings on Union Pacific tracks by calling our 24/7 Response Management Communications Center at 1-800-848-8715 option 3.