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Signal gates to go up at Wearden Drive, Bottom Road train crossings

By BY SARA SNEATH - SPECIAL TO THE ADVOCATE
Oct. 22, 2013 at 5:22 a.m.


Two Victoria County railroad crossings will soon receive safety upgrades.

The Texas Department of Transportation has sent its plans to install gates to prevent vehicles from driving onto the tracks at Wearden Drive and Bottom Road to Union Pacific, which will do the work.

Federal dollars are going toward the project, spokeswoman Helena Wright said.

"We're waiting right now to hear back from them with a cost estimate and a schedule," she said.

A small, red yield sign on the side of the road now marks the railroad tracks at Bottom Road, near Loop 175 in southern Victoria County.

Bob Girt, who has lived in the area for 40 years, is looking forward to the change.

"The wife and I, over time, have come very close to running into a train," Girt said.

The average train through the county is more than a mile long and travels at a speed of 10 mph, according to a Victoria County Transportation Study.

Although the engineers are required to blow their horns as they pass through the intersection, there is nothing else to warn drivers at night that the train is still on the road, Girt, 53, said.

There have not been any accidents at the crossings in the past five years, according to the Department of Transportation.

But the agency found after conducting traffic studies in the area, the increased traffic made both crossings candidates for the gates, said Precinct 2 Commissioner Kevin Janak. Wearden Drive is in his precinct.

Girt's neighbor Daniel Juerta said it is only a matter of time before there is an accident at the Bottom Road crossing. With a 30 mph speed limit, Bottom Road has become a shortcut for traffic headed toward U.S. 59, he said.

"I've seen vehicles going over 60 mph through here," Juerta said.

R.J. Abashire, 82, has also seen speeders on Nursery Drive, where he has lived since 1991.

"I can drive on U.S. Highway 87 (which runs parallel to Nursery Drive), and I can see them keeping up with me," he said.

The speeding started a month ago after the road was repaved, he said. He would also like to see more sheriff's deputies patrolling the area.

Traffic picks up at the nearby Wearden Drive crossing in the morning probably because of all the new development on Parsons Road, but in the afternoon it is calm, Abashire said.

"People must get off work at different times. ... I don't think (the crossing bars) would be worthwhile," he said. "But I'm not going to say it won't need it later on."

Precinct 1 Commissioner Danny Garcia expected the gates to be in place soon.

"They've already gone out there and measured the locations," Garcia said.

Janak said the change was necessary because his precinct is booming, especially after West High School was built.

"We can place all the safety devices, we can place all the miles per hour signs through residential areas and all those parts, but people still need to be cautious, defensive drivers and please be aware of all the safety issues," he said.

For Girt, the gates could not come soon enough.

"I strongly believe the drop bars would be great," he said.

Reporter Jessica Priest contributed to this story.

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