The city of Fort Worth's transportation department says plans to make safety improvements to a rail crossing, which often cuts off a small neighborhood, are on track
The city's transportation department briefed interested parties in a meeting put on by Downtown Fort Worth Inc., and the Fort Worth Chamber of Commerce.
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In about 18 months, residents will no longer be able to drive or walk across the tracks along East Peach Street in the Rock Island neighborhood. The crossing will be closed up and fenced off. A new road will connect the neighborhood to downtown without any need for a train crossing.
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On Wednesday, a Fort Worth Police officer provided NBC 5 with photographs of a young boy crawling under a stopped train at the crossing. The images play out almost daily in the tiny enclave and images city transportation leaders say they hope to stop.
"Absolutely and I think it underscores our commitment to keep these projects moving as quickly as possible so we can stop that from happening," said Alonzo Linan, the city's assistant transportation director.
Linan briefed those gathered at the Fort Worth Club about two projects currently under way designed to improve rail safety and mobility in the downtown area.
"It begins and ends with safety," Linan said.
Those projects are the Live Oak Connector and Tower 55. Tower 55 is one of the nation's busiest train corridors, additional rail lines are being added to ease congestion surrounding this intersection and bridge work is most noticeable above East Lancaster Avenue, among other alterations.
"Which includes two new bridges, four crossings that exist that'll be closed," Linan said. "And the schedule we expect, most of it will be done this summer."
That may provide some relief to the small neighborhood, but the Live Oak Connector will completely change life for those that live near East Peach Street. As the often blocked crossing will be completely closed and fenced off, with a new outlet opened once the city secures some final bit of funding.
North Live Oak Street will connect with East Fourth Street between two rail bridges, meaning no one will have to travel over a railroad again.
"Some things take time, some more than others but fortunately this (Live Oak) is still on schedule, and we expect middle of (20)15 fort his to be completed," Linan said.
In the meantime, the hope is residents will use safer practices of getting to work or school.
"You always hate to ask for patience, at this point we're moving as fast as we can," he said.
Linan says the city has talked with the nearby elementary school about securing bus services into the neighborhood once Live Oak is extended and open.
East First Street on the east side of the neighborhood will also be closed off to vehicle and pedestrian traffic as part of the Live Oak project. Another section of East First and East Peach are being closed as part of Tower 55. While that will limit the ability to navigate the neighborhood, it will make it safer for everyone.