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Three railroad crossings to get the ax in Victoria

By Melissa Crowe
May 6, 2014 at 12:06 a.m.
Updated May 7, 2014 at 12:07 a.m.


IN OTHER ACTION, THE COUNCIL:

• Approved a $21,890 contract with GoatScapers to provide brush clearing services at Riverside Park.

• Awarded a $2.5 million bid contract to Lester Contracting Inc., of Port Lavaca, for the Ball Airport Road extension project.

• Approved a $19.6 million project for the new Odem Street wastewater treatment plant.

• Discussed reaching a solution with Ben Commerson about his driveway, which was constructed without a permit and not built to city code.

Union Pacific is enacting a close-three/get-one policy when it comes to railroad crossings that has city officials' attention for the planned extension of Ball Airport Road.

Because the project is designed to cross the railroad line at Main Street, Union Pacific has offered to grant right-of-way for the new road if the city closes three other crossings.

Assistant City Manager John Kaminski recommended during Tuesday's council meeting that the city close crossings at Guadalupe and Main streets, Sabine and Main streets, and Stayton Avenue and North William Street.

Councilman Tom Halepaska said the city should move quickly on securing a written agreement with the railroad.

He recalled a previous experience with the railroad when trying to bore under the tracks for a water line.

"I think it took us upward of two years to get that permission," he said. "It was miserable dealing with those people."

Mayor Paul Polasek said he wants to make sure the city is not being "bluffed" into closing streets.

"This is the policy of a private company," Polasek said. "Just because it's their policy, they don't dictate or control transportation in our city. ... It's almost like we're being bullied."

However, the railroad owns the right-of-way and controls what happens on their property, Kaminski said.

Because the crossing on Guadalupe Street is not signaled, the city could be reimbursed up to $150,000 in federal funding for improvements necessary to close the street under the Federal Railroad Signal Program, Kaminski said.

That closure would also eliminate a crossing where horns must be sounded as trains pass through the city, he said.

City Councilman Emett Alvarez has taken on the project of creating "quiet zones" within the city and said he expects to bring information forward soon.

Other crossings up for discussion included Brazos Street, Odem Street and Tropical Drive.

Polasek said he has no intention of closing the crossing at Tropical Drive, which has a daily traffic count of 2,860 vehicles.

Stayton Avenue has an average traffic count of 110 vehicles and serves a mix of residential and non-residential uses. The crossings nearby at William and DeLeon streets have active warning devices, and those crossings would remain open, Kaminski said.

While access for emergency services was not taken into account for the staff's recommendation, Kaminski said each street still has ample access.

"Every one has another route a block away," he said. "There's another way to get across ... the crossings without signals are the most unsafe."

The Guadalupe Street crossing carries an average of 371 vehicles daily, but streets one block north and one block south would continue having access across the railroad.

The Sabine Street crossing carries an average of 188 vehicles daily. Red River Street, located one block north, has active warning devices and that crossing would remain open.

"I know it's for the greater good," Polasek said. "I do agree the option presented is the best, the least impacted on our citizens."

Polasek said he wants an agreement with Union Pacific that says the city is not bound to the Ball Airport project in case a more urgent road need arises.

He said he did not want the council to "paint ourselves into a corner."

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