Union Pacific wraps up Arlington track work ahead of schedule

Posted Friday, Jan. 25, 2013  comments  Print Reprints
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ARLINGTON -- The Great Southwest Parkway railroad crossing in far east Arlington reopened Friday, more than a week earlier than expected.

With all at-grade railroad crossings through Arlington now back open, city officials say the Union Pacific track renewal project wasn't nearly as big a traffic and public safety headache as expected.

"Union Pacific listened to our concerns. They did anything and everything they could to open roadways when they said, but most of the time it was sooner," Public Works and Transportation Director Keith Melton said. "We absolutely appreciate their efforts in recognizing the inconvenience to Arlington citizens."

The Great Southwest Parkway railroad crossing was originally set to remain closed through Feb. 3.

"The crews have been working as efficiently as possible," Union Pacific spokeswoman Raquel Espinoza said. "We realize that it was important that we open the crossings up as soon as possible."

Union Pacific is spending $30 million to renew 35 miles of track between Fort Worth and Dallas. The northern track is being redone this year, and the southern track will be redone at a later date.

During the project, which started in Arlington on Jan. 17, several of the at-grade crossings that motorists use to travel north and south of Division Street were closed simultaneously for days at time. To prevent gridlock and to keep routes open for emergency vehicles, the city activated its emergency operations center, had police officers directing traffic and shifted firetrucks and ambulances to north Arlington.

An aggressive communication campaign, which included the city's website, local media and electronic signs throughout the city, helped motorists prepare for the crossing closures and find detours, Fire Chief Don Crowson said.

"A lot of those efforts paid dividends and minimized the impact of what could have been more difficult," Crowson said.

Melton said Union Pacific's agreement to keep the Bowen Road crossing open while the crossings at Davis Drive, Cooper, Center and Mesquite streets were closed was "a great concession."

"That really opened that part of town and helped mobility. It never got as bad as we anticipated," Melton said about concerns of gridlock.

The Bowen Road crossing, which was originally set to be closed for four days, was only closed for about four hours Jan. 17. The track there will be replaced by Union Pacific crews at a later date.

"The city did share some concerns with that closure while we had the other crossings closed. We went back and evaluated the project and decided to come back and conduct that work at a later date with local crews," Espinoza said. "It was important to have some access available."

City officials are calculating expenses and preparing a review of traffic management and public safety plans during the crossing closures to present to the Arlington City Council next month.

"They will come back and do this again in the next two years. It will help us develop a plan and help us guide us for the next time," Melton said.

Though Union Pacific did provide some assistance with signage and traffic management, city spokeswoman Rebecca Rodriguez said, the city plans to seek reimbursement for expenses from the company.

Susan Schrock, 817-709-7578

Twitter: @susanschrock

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