Trains block small Texas town's entrances, residents complain

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by Joe Conger / KENS 5

khou.com

Posted on February 5, 2013 at 9:26 AM

COTULLA, Texas -- Deep in the Eagle Ford Shale area, it’s not just truck traffic, but also train traffic that is growing.

The problem is so bad that one town says they’re being held hostage by mile-long trains that park at the only entrances.

On a good day, it is a few minutes delay. But Celia Boardman says there aren’t many good days.

Stuck for hours behind stalled trains, she snaps photos with her cell phone to pass the time.

“The school bus gets trapped sometimes in the evening for two hours with our children on it. Nobody can get out. Nobody can get in. Can’t get out, can’t get in,” Boardman said.
 
Life in Gardendale comes to a standstill when the trains sit. The small township of 53 families has two main caliche roads with train crossings at their most pivotal points, where they access an interstate.
 
“It’s already a traffic jam at this crossing, just think what it would be like if they were to close the crossing. You just can’t get out.”
 
Closures are just what Union Pacific is thinking of doing, citing safety concerns for heavy trucks and train collisions that occur frequently.
 
The LaSalle County judge says he isn’t too happy with the idea.
 
Judge Joel Rodriguez said, “The commissioners’ court is not in favor of cutting access to any residents.”
 
Gardendale residents could see help from an unlikely ally — the oil companies that need the same roads open for Eagle Ford Shale business.
 
Still, Union Pacific says at least one crossing on Oxford Avenue is being considered for closure. Its crossing arms and lights would be moved to the Inman Avenue crossing.
 
But residents say closures won’t help the sedentary train situation and the need to get emergency services quickly into town and out again.
 
Resident Eddie Lopez said, “I have congestive heart failure. And I have 20 percent of my heart working. So, it’s a big concern of mine for me to get a heart attack in the middle of the night, and not get an ambulance to come and pick me up.”

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