Solutions Forthcoming for Neighborhood Cut-Off by Trains

Two projects are in various stages to resolve the problem

A Fort Worth neighborhood, just east of downtown, continues to be cut-off by train traffic.

Trains often stop on the tracks for hours on end, blocking cars and people from crossing. Often times children, even adults, crawl under the train to get out of the neighborhood.

It's happening along East Peach Street and the solution to the trains stopping is being paid for, in part, because of the problems residents have been dealing with for years.

The City of Fort Worth specifically mentioned the issue of trains and this neighborhood while pushing for federal funds to keep trains moving.

On Tuesday, several trains were spotted again blocking the crossing.

"It's gotten a lot worse recently," said resident Catherine de Leon.

De Leon has lived in the neighborhood for about 50 years and while she's always dealt with passing and idling trains, it's been so bad the last few weeks that she's called the police.

"There's times that they'll sit from Friday to Sunday, maybe Monday, and they don't move all weekend and we just have to keep going around and finding our way out," she said.

A Fort Worth police officer told NBC 5 he's witnessed the same issue recently. A Union Pacific spokesperson said the company has no reports of that happening, but it will look into the matter.

The reason why trains usually end up stopped for a while along the tracks is Tower 55, just south of the neighborhood. It is one of the most heavily congested train intersections in the entire country, averaging 106.6 trains a day according to a Union Pacific informational handout.

Tower 55 is currently undergoing a $114 million renovation, according to Union Pacific. An additional north-south track is being added and other improvements are being made to help speed up train traffic. Union Pacific, Fort Worth-based BNSF, the federal government through grants, City of Fort Worth, TXDOT and the North Central Texas Council of Governments have all contributed to the project.

The goal of the project is to get trains moving through faster, to improve air quality and safety along the corridor. It should be completed by September.

The City of Fort Worth also has a project in the works to specifically remedy the problem for the East Peach Street neighborhood. The Live Oak Connector would extend North Live Oak Street south to intersect with East Fourth Street, with no train crossings required. East Peach and East First Streets, which also can be blocked by trains, would be closed to vehicle and pedestrian traffic making it safer for the area.

According to TXDOT's Statewide Transportation Improvement Program for Fiscal Years 2013-2016, the project will cost about $3.3 million. Union Pacific said it supports the project, as it wants traffic and its trains to be safer in the area.

Residents said the changes sound good to them.

"Yes it does, but we've got to wait," De Leon said. "Like they say, be patient, we're trying to be patient, but they're just sitting too long."

Fort Worth's transportation department will brief interested downtown parties on both Tower 55 and the Live Oak Connector on Wednesday.

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