Union Pacific will begin replacing 13 miles of train tracks through Arlington next month, creating traffic headaches with the simultaneous closure of the city's railroad crossings for days.Arlington has eight at-grade rail crossings and only five roads that cross over or under the rail line -- West Green Oaks Boulevard, Forest Edge Drive, Fielder Road, West Street and Texas 360.Motorists needing to cross the train tracks, which run parallel to Division Street through the center of the city, should expect delays and detours during the project, scheduled to run Jan. 16-24.Union Pacific will replace the existing northern main rail line and switch from wooden ties to more durable concrete ties along the section between Fort Worth and Dallas starting Jan. 1.Rail replacement workers are set to arrive in Arlington on Jan. 16, which will cause the closure of the at-grade crossings at Bowen Road, Davis Drive, and Cooper, Center and Mesquite streets."It's a significant project -- something that is going to cause a lot of heartburn, disruption to traffic and neighborhoods and businesses," Public Works and Transportation Director Keith Melton said. "It's something that has to be done."Having multiple rail crossing closed for days is unprecedented.The city will activate its emergency operations center, install additional traffic cameras and deploy police officers to help manage traffic flow and keep routes open for emergency personnel, Fire Chief Don Crowson said."We have had adequate warning to develop a plan. We're a can-do city. We'll make it work," Crowson said.First responders who are typically stationed south of the rail line will be temporarily relocated during the crossing closures so they can more easily respond to emergencies in the northern section of the city without delay, city officials said."We have an operational plan that we think will be effective. This is not the first time we've had to manage traffic issues in this city," Assistant Police Chief James Hawthorne said.City officials are also communicating with the school district, whose buses are housed south of the train tracks, the University of Texas at Arlington, local hospitals and other major businesses or agencies that could be impacted by the closures.There is also a remote possibility that the Dallas Cowboys would be hosting a National Football Conference Championship game at Cowboys Stadium on Jan. 20, which would affect traffic coming to and from the game.Tracking expensesA 250-man crew will work between 6 a.m. and 6 p.m. daily to complete the project, according to the city.Rail crossings will re-open as the work moves east toward Dallas, city officials said.Union Pacific plans to replace the southern tracks between Fort Worth and Dallas in a year or two, which will force crossing closures again.Arlington plans to keep track of its expenses related to managing traffic because of the closed crossings but has no official word whether Union Pacific will reimburse those costs.The city has sought reimbursement from the rail company in the past for public safety costs related to a train derailments in 2011 and one earlier this year.Susan Schrock, 817-709-7578Twitter: @susanschrock
Residents can receive updates on the project at MyArlingtonTx.com.