Part 1 of 3 in series
By Karen Daniels
For those of you who travel, live, or work on or near Highway 90A, beginning this spring, your commute could take longer. The Union Pacific Railroad (UPRR) will begin their work on installing a second track which will be conducted in two phases. The first phase starts in March between S. Post Oak Rd through Beltway 8 and the second phase will start in July between FM2234 through Highway 6. UPRR will collect bids from the contractors, but according to Mayor Leonard Scarcella of Stafford, they already know which companies they’re going to use so the road construction will start shortly thereafter.
Currently, approximately 36 trains travel the 90A rail corridor in a 24 hour period. UPRR has stated that they won’t increase this traffic and they are placing the second track to “help mobility.” Since its inception in 2007, Mayor Scarcella has represented the Fort Bend County Mayors at the Gulf Coast Rail District meetings, which is comprised of fifteen directors from Fort Bend, Harris, Montgomery, Galveston, and Waller counties. From what he’s learned at these meetings, the Mayor fully expects the number of trains to increase to at least 60 or 70 trains passing through in a 24 hour period.
Union Pacific owns a one-hundred feet right-of-way of the land, with the current track at the southernmost point. With only 18 feet clearance needed for each train, mathematically they could add five more tracks. Unfortunately, they don’t need a vote or approval to do this. There will be no special session or survey’s conducted for the residents of Fort Bend County to voice their opinion, but according to the Mayor, we still have power. “Like the recent grass roots effort of the Tea Party or Occupy Wallstreet, the citizens of Fort Bend County can voice their opinion.”
In all fairness, UPRR contends that the second track will save diesel because with the added track their trains will not have to stop and start. However, with the potential increase in train traffic, they don’t mention that motorist will waste fuel while they wait for one or possibly two trains to pass.
Here is some other information you should know:
1. The commuter train that was being considered is no longer on the table
2. The disruption to traffic and emergency services will be impactful
3. Train accidents/incidents occur in Fort Bend County on average four times per year (2002-Present)
4. Since the Patriot Act, cities and counties are no longer informed of what chemicals the trains are transporting
Here’s how you can make a difference. Call Union Pacific Public Relations for the Southern Region at (281) 350-7178 or send an email to www.up.com/messages/index.cfm?address=jmcarreo. Union Pacific refers to this area as the “Glidden Subdivision.” As Mayor Scarcella says, “Public opinion matters and it will have an impact if enough people take action.”