Railroad Tracks Derail Highway 161

Railroad tracks interrupt a state highway in Grand Prairie, causing confusion for drivers.

The six lanes of frontage road completed on State Highway 161 come to a halt Main Street for southbound lanes and at Jefferson Street for northbound lanes. Drivers can see that the road continues on the other side of the tracks, but they can't drive through.

Texas Department of Transportation spokeswoman Cynthia Northrup White said the railroad objected to constructing the typical crossings for vehicles until the toll road lanes of Highway 161 are constructed there.

"When you look at accidents that happen at railroad crossings, there's a number of different reasons they try to limit those access points," she said. "Two other locations in Grand Prairie had to be closed."

Southbound drivers are directed to turn right at Main Street to avoid the tracks, but there are no signs to direct them back to southbound Highway 161.

“I’m sure people pass by it without any acknowledgement that you’re supposed to go back across the tracks to get back on 161 and go south,” said Craig Davis, of nearby Grand Prairie Audio, Tint and Security on Jefferson Street.

He sees the unusual traffic pattern outside his business every day.

“In the evening, between 5 and 6:30, it piles up out there, a lot of people honking,” Davis said.

White suggested the lack of signs is intentional.

“We don’t want to insinuate that this is the only way that they can go,” White said.

But there are directions signs for northbound drivers.

The toll road project will include an underpass for the main lanes and surface level crossing of the tracks for the existing frontage roads.

“There was a lot of issues that had to be addressed,” White said. “They wanted it as an entire package.”

The construction will require a railroad detour for trains.

The North Texas Tollway Authority will build the project, which is scheduled for completion in late 2012.

Further north, a traffic switch will open a new section of the Highway 161 toll road this weekend. Workers will remove barricades on the new main lanes of Highway 161 between Highway 183 and Interstate 30 on Saturday.

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