Reader responds to “Star” article about rail traffic
RE: “Call to Action from Stafford Mayor Leonard Scarcella”
by Karen Daniels
First a little history:
The predecessor company of the Union Pacific arrived in what is now Stafford in 1853.The city of Stafford was incorporated in 1956 only 103 years later.
The present situation:
Today’s rail traffic is in the region of 30-40 trains per day, unfortunately they are not spread out equally and just like the freeways, congestion occurs.
A single track railroad requires passing places where trains in opposite directions can pass each other, or where faster trains can overtake slower trains. The two passing places nearest to Sugar Land/Stafford are West of Ulrich Street extending to the TX99 overpass (About 2 ½ miles in length) and East of Stafford in the vicinity of Martin Lane (About ¾ of a mile in length). The Stafford location requires at least one of the passing trains to be less than ¾ mile in length while the Sugar land passing place can usually accommodate trains of any length.
When a train is not stopping to pass another train it may be running up to about 60 mph, thus a train passing a railroad crossing should clear the crossing in one minute or in about 2 minutes for the full cycle including operation of the lights, bells and barriers. A slower train will take longer. The crossing occupation by a fast moving train is about the same as the time required for the light cycle at a regular street intersection equipped with protected turn signals in all directions.
The delays occur when a train must slow to enter the passing track and then stop to await the train from the other direction. Train speed may be as low as 15mph. At other times a train may have to wait on the single track between Sugar Land and Stafford where an earlier train occupies the passing track and a train in the opposite direction has to enter the other crossing track to allow the earlier train to proceed and the train stopped on the single track to enter the passing track. Trains will also accelerate slowly after any stops.
Texas law provides for this situation by allowing a train to block a crossing for only 10 minutes before it must be spilt to allow use of the road crossing. With today’s train lengths and reduced manning, this is a time consuming operation which can make the congestion worse not better.
The double track proposal, which I am assuming will be bi-directional, will allow trains to maintain their speed when passing each other and avoid the more severe congestion which is the cause of road users’ present frustrations.
The railroad will have more capacity, but the scare tactics, suggesting an immediate doubling of the number of trains, will require a boom in the economy, the like of which has seldom occurred.
Yes, there are hazardous materials on trains, just as there are hazardous materials on trucks operating on US 59 and US 90A and these trucks are not required to notify cities of their passing either.
Additional collisions between road users and trains are clearly the responsibility of the road users when they drive around barriers to expedite their trip. If a train hits a car the result is a foregone conclusion. A train cannot stop on a dime!
I would add that I am not an employee of any railroad, nor do I have any financial interest in them, I am just a road driver who observes passing trains while waiting and has some understanding of railroad operations.
I believe a more objective look at the benefits of this project will contradict the mayor’s views.
Ian S. Roberts
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