Railroad officials tell commissioners long waits at crossings won’t happen again

STAFF WRITER JARED FIELDS

Burnet County Precinct 1 Commissioner Jim Luther Jr. said CR 121 north of Marble Falls was blocked for almost two hours July 10 by rail cars at the crossing. Representatives from Austin Western Railroad and WATCO Companies faced Burnet County commissioners on July 24 to answer for those delays and address steps to avoid long wait times in the future. Staff photo by Jared Fields

Burnet County Precinct 1 Commissioner Jim Luther Jr. said CR 121 north of Marble Falls was blocked for almost two hours July 10 by rail cars at the crossing. Representatives from Austin Western Railroad and WATCO Companies faced Burnet County commissioners on July 24 to answer for those delays and address steps to avoid long wait times in the future. Staff photo by Jared Fields

BURNET — Burnet County commissioners received assurances from Austin Western Railroad and WATCO Companies representatives during a Commissioners Court meeting July 24 that long traffic delays at crossings won’t happen again.

“I feel like they heard my concerns loud and clear,” said Burnet County Precinct 1 Commissioner Jim Luther Jr. “Whether they follow through, we’ll have to wait and see on their actions.”

Traffic delays July 10 caused by rail cars blocking roads at crossings led to long waits for drivers as well as emergency vehicles being kept from responding to calls.

The long delays that day were caused by an order of new cars on the railroad. Instead of grabbing cars from the end of the line, the order specified cars from the middle of the line of about 300. Railroad operators had to move the line back and forth to single out cars from the middle.

John Anderson, general manager of Austin Western Railroad, a subsidiary of Kansas-based WATCO Companies, addressed the commissioners and said the delays should not have happened.

The Timber Ridge subdivision on CR 121 in Burnet County was cut off for nearly two hours July 10 because of rail cars blocking the railroad crossing. Residents couldn’t get in or out, and emergency services were blocked from responding to calls. Burnet County commissioners heard from railroad representatives July 24 about what steps are being taken to avoid long waits in the future. Staff photo by Jared Fields

The Timber Ridge subdivision on CR 121 in Burnet County was cut off for nearly two hours July 10 because of rail cars blocking the railroad crossing. Residents couldn’t get in or out, and emergency services were blocked from responding to calls. Burnet County commissioners heard from railroad representatives July 24 about what steps are being taken to avoid long waits in the future. Staff photo by Jared Fields

Moving forward, Anderson said the railroad will not pick out individual cars from the line.

“They assured us it would not happen again, and I assured them I would be checking on it,” Luther said.

Burnet County Judge James Oakley said the company also told the court they have taken internal steps to prevent similar delays in the future.

“The purpose of bringing them to court was to face the public, acknowledge what happened, and keep it from happening again,” Oakley said. “Because what happened was not an accident. Somebody made the decision to do what they did.”

jared@thepicayune.com

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