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First Ward Community - Houston, Texas

Railroad Crossing Safety

Greening Houston Ave. Thespian Garden Historic Home

The Community: A historic residential community near downtown Houston determined to maintain its quality of life.

Railroad Corridor: A one- mile railroad corridor with a daily traffic of 20 to 24 freight trains. The tracks are crossed by 11 at-grade streets, three of them considered major streets and 8 minor streets. The corridor has a number vehicles and pedestrians that cross over the tracks.

Community Concerns: High speed vehicular traffic on residential streets trying to get a head of passing trains, existing industrial sites with heavy truck activity, and adjacent schools and major police facility.

Taking The Lead: Members of the First Ward Civic Club for years have tried to find a solution to their concerns of safety and train noise along the tracks. In Spring of 2003, to the request of residents, Gonzalo Camacho spearheaded this project pro-bono working closely with members of the First Ward Civic Club. Assisted by Camacho, volunteers from the Civic Club gathered railroad accident data, signatures from residents, educating the public on their concerns, gathered signatures, and engaged the City.


Walking the tracks

Train activity

Traffic at railroad crossing

Project Partners: Worked closely with the City of Houston Traffic Department conducting traffic studies and held public meetings, site walks and communication with stakeholders such as:

  • Union Pacific Railroad
  • Houston Police Department
  • City of Houston Traffic Department
  • City of Houston Fire Department
  • US Post Office
  • Garbage collection agency
  • Residents
  • Local businesses
  • Texas Department of Transportation
  • Elected officials
  • Federal Railroad Administration.

The Process: Initial investigation outlined the potential for closing minor streets and improving major streets. Data collected included average daily traffic counts, daily train activity, past vehicle-train and pedestrian-train crashes, and field investigation. A number of meetings were held with stakeholders and worked closely with the City of Houston Traffic Department in preparation for the request to close minor streets.

After an extensive public outreach program, consisting of area wide mailings educating the public about the project, gathering comments from stakeholders, and a community wide public meeting, Camacho and civic leaders worked closely with the City's Public Works Department and City Council. Consequently the request to close some minor streets was accepted and approved by all city departments as a two-phase project. The first phase consisting of closing three minor streets was established as a 90-day pilot program. The streets were closed on February 28, 2005.


Hickory Street (Closed) Downtown View Goliad Street (Closed)

Closure of Streets: It is expected that closure of minor streets that cross the railroad tracks will:

  • Reduce cut-through and speeding vehicles through neighborhood streets
  • Reduce potential for auto-train crashes
  • Reduce legal requirement for sounding train horns
  • Create cul-de-sac garden streets
  • Improve pedestrian safety
  • Reduce criminal activity by blocking escape routes
  • Enhance residents' quality of life
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